VCU researchers begin clinical trials for treatment COVID-19

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University announced it began clinical trials for an experimental treatment of COVID-19.

The drug would be for patients with moderate to severe symptoms of the coronavirus. They are researching remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. which is used experimentally to treat Ebola.

Even though remdesivir is not approved anywhere in the world and has not been proven to be safe or effective, its use on a man in Washington state hospitalized with coronavirus piqued global interest.

“We feel it is extremely important that drugs to be used for this potentially life-threatening disease be tested rigorously so we have good evidence of their efficacy as well as their safety,” said Arun Sanyal, a liver specialist and gastroenterologist at VCU Health leading the study. “We are delighted to work with Gilead on this trial, and we look forward to generating the data that hopefully will help lots of people who have this condition.”

How remdesivir slows the infection of healthy cells is by mimicking the appearance of part of the virus and infiltrating the enzyme viruses can use to replicate themselves.

VCU Health said remdesivir has shown antiviral activity against other coronaviruses like Middle East respiratory syndrome but clinical trials were never completed because of a lack of available study participants. Sanyal said, the trail is a chance to generate data on the investigational drug’s safety and effectiveness.

“Our team members at VCU and VCU Health have been actively searching for ways to combat COVID-19, a virus that has disrupted our lives and the lives of those we serve,” said Peter Buckley, dean of the VCU School of Medicine. “Our teams are working seamlessly to make this investigational drug therapy available to those who are most affected by this virus.”

These trials enroll participants with documented COVID-19 infection who have fever and symptoms warranting hospitalization. Doctors at VCU Health will administer the investigational drug intravenously in five- or 10-day regimens and follow up 28 days later.

There is a patient referral portal that allows doctors to tell VCU about possible trial candidates. If the patient from another health care provider qualifies, they could be eligible to transfer to VCU Medical Center and participate in the trial.

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