The University of Virginia Health System has joined a national clinical trial testing a potential COVID-19 medication.

“I enrolled the first patient on the clinical trial for Remdesivir,” Dr. Taison Bell, an infectious disease expert who specializes in critical care at the Charlottesville-based health system, told NNPA Newswire in an email.

Hospitalized adult patients with COVID-19 and significant symptoms – including difficulty breathing, using supplemental oxygen, or needing a ventilator – can now choose to participate in the trial.

The trial will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of remdesivir, an antiviral drug that has been tested in humans with the Ebola virus. It has shown promise in animal studies against Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which are both caused by different types of coronavirus, U.Va. officials noted in a press release.

“Finding an effective treatment will be incredibly important in our battle against COVID-19,” said Dr. K. Craig Kent, U.Va.’s executive vice president for health affairs. “I am pleased that U.Va. is a part of this valuable study.”

Participants in the trial will be randomly assigned to either receive remdesivir or a placebo intravenously for as long as 10 days, according to U.Va.’s news release.

Trial participants and their doctors will not know whether patients are receiving the medication or a placebo. Patients will otherwise receive the current standard of care for their symptoms. U.Va. physicians will assess trial participants each day for changes in their condition.

Trial data from all participating hospitals and an estimated 440 participants worldwide will be combined and analyzed about halfway through the trial’s enrollment period to determine if changes should be made to the test. The trial could stop if participants were not benefiting from remdesivir, or the trial could be changed to add another medication or therapy that could improve participants’ responses.

“Having scientifically sound information about the effectiveness of remdesivir will be helpful as we seek to provide the best care for patients,” Dr. Patrick Jackson, the principal investigator for the trial at U.Va., stated in the release.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, is funding the study. Gilead Sciences Inc., which developed remdesivir, is supplying it for the study.

“Bringing the remdesivir trial to U.Va. is a true testament to our collaborative spirit,” Bell added. “Before I spoke to Dr. John Beigel [the principal investigator for the entire trial], we had already lined up the research staff and infrastructure to hit the ground running. He was impressed with our organization, and we were able to start moving immediately.”

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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