Ask Dr. Nandi: Coronavirus medication updates, plus heartburn medicine being studied as potential treatment

Posted at 5:53 PM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 08:32:14-04

(WXYZ) — As the search continues to find a cure for COVID-19, how far are we from a life-saving drug? We’ve heard about a promising drug that researchers have kept under wraps up until now.

We’re talking about famotidine, it’s the active ingredient in Pepcid, an over-the-counter product that’s used for heartburn, stomach ulcers and GERD. Apparently, it’s been at the center of a trial taking place in New York, where more than 180 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 have quietly been enrolled since March 13th.

These patients are being given either a two-drug combination of famotidine and hydroxychloroquine. Or just hydroxychloroquine by itself. And what the researchers are hoping will happen, is that famotidine will interfere with the virus’ ability to reproduce, by acting as a decoy and distracting it.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking, but please don’t run out to your local drugstore and load up on this medication. Because patients are not taking any over-the-counter products that contain famotidine. They’re getting this medication through an IV. And the dose is actually 9 times higher than what you’d find in any of the over the counter products.

Results from the famotidine trial are expected in a few weeks. And yes, it will be very interesting to hear what the results are since as you mentioned, hydroxychloroquine does appear to have some very dangerous risks.

In fact, the FDA has cautioned against using hydroxychloroquine outside a clinical trial or a hospital setting because the drug can cause a dangerous irregular heart rhythm that can lead to death. Now, we’re still waiting to hear the results from the largest study for this drug, over 1600 people, that’s been taking place in New York. Details should be released very soon.

However, I’m not too optimistic as a recent study at US Veterans Health Administration medical centers did not find that patients taking hydroxychloroquine were better off. In fact, of the 97 patients who took this drug, there was a 27.8% death rate. Compare that to the 158 patients who didn’t take the malaria drug and had an 11.4% death rate.

Question: What about Remdesivir – didn’t we hear negative results last week?

Yes, last week, details from a Chinese trial were accidentally posted by the World Health Organization and they did not look good. However, that trial ended early because of a lack of enrollment so the results are really inconclusive.

Despite this, there is still a lot of hope associated with this drug. We’re actually expecting to hear preliminary results in another week or two from another study involving Remdesivir, this one is sponsored by the National Institutes of Healthcare.

It’s a double-blind placebo-controlled trial that includes over 570 people from all over the world. So I’m hopeful that we’ll hear positive news soon. And if it doesn’t work out, which certainly does happen, there are still many scientists around the world working at finding safe and effective solutions to the coronavirus pandemic.

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