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First national study of possible COVID-19 therapy includes Duke University Hospital

The first national study testing a possible therapy for the coronavirus has gained a new participant: Duke University Hospital.

Duke is ready now to start enrolling patients in this investigational treatment. For its potential patients “who have serious complications from COVID-19,” the hospital’s participation in this study gives them another option, said Cameron Wolfe, associate professor of medicine and the study’s principal investigator, in a Duke Health release.

“Currently, there are no approved therapies for this disease,” Wolfe said, “so we are eager to contribute in any way to help find ways to fight this global pandemic.”

The study seeks to use the treatment remdesivir, an antiviral agent previously tested in humans with Ebola and has shown potential in animal studies against MERS and SARS, two other diseases that evolve from different strains of coronaviruses. 

According to the release, the study was structured to “evaluate the safety and effectiveness of remdesivir.” In order to do this, patients in the double-blind study will be randomly assigned to receive either remdesivir or a mock treatment. 

Those eligible for the trial must have severe symptoms such as “difficulty breathing, using supplemental oxygen or needing mechanical ventilation,” according to the release. This is because most people with COVID-19 will recover at home without needing therapies like remdesivir, according to Emmanuel Walter, professor of pediatrics and co-investigator on the study.

“We do not want to expose people with mild or no symptoms to a therapy that could have potential side effects,” Walter told Duke Health.  

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