New York Trial Tests Heartburn Medication to Treat COVID-19

Northwell Health's staff is not willing to call the trial a success yet, but what they are seeing so far is promising

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As researchers race to develop a treatment for COVID-19, a new study out of the region has produced promising results with an unusual medication.

Doctors at Northwell Health want to know if a common, inexpensive heartburn drug could offer a treatment for COVID-19.

The study started a few weeks ago, but doctors at Northwell Health kept it under wraps until now to ensure their stockpile of Pepcid was large enough to conduct the trial.

"While it is a good heartburn medicine, its effect on virus is completely distinct and separate," said Dr. David Battinelli, Northwell Health's Chief Medical Officer.

Northwell Health's physicians, in its 23-hospital system, are heading up a trial to see if the drug helps COVID-19 patients. As of Monday, about 200 hospitalized patients are part of the first-of-a-kind study.

"We really have a full-court press to make sure that we get enough patients into this trial so that we can answer that question," Dr. Battinelli said.

The double-blind trial started earlier this month. Half of the people will get famotidine and hydroxychloroquine, while everyone else will just get hydroxycholorquine.

Researchers held off on talking about their work for weeks so they could stockpile the drug before other hospitals and even the federal government got wise and rushed to get the medication too. Initial findings out of China are part of the reason why they think this may work. Doctors there noted patients on the drug had a better survival rate.

The study's participants get nine times the standard heartburn dose.

Northwell's staff is not willing to call the trial a success yet, but what they are seeing so far is promising. Final results are expected in about four weeks.

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