VCU begins clinical trials on potential, experimental treatment for COVID-19

Updated: Mar. 25, 2020 at 6:26 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Commonwealth University researchers have started two clinical trials on a potential, experimental treatment for COVID-19.

Dr. Arun Sanyal, a liver specialist and gastroenterologist, is leading the trials of an investigational drug for patients with moderate and severe symptoms of COVID-19 and the virus responsible for the disease, SARS-Cov-2.

The investigational antiviral was developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. and used experimentally to treat Ebola.

“It is not a little frustrating it’s a lot frustrating to see the number of people who are not taking this disease seriously,” Sanyal said.

It’s a serious matter for Dr. Arun Sanyal and other healthcare workers at VCU Health.

“Right here in Richmond unfortunately we have had a number of deaths,” Sanyal said.

The number of COVID 19 cases are on the rise.

As the battle continues these medical warriors are providing research hoping to find a cure.

“Our job is to demonstrate clearly if this drug meets the standards,” Sanyal said.

VCU is one of many sites doing a clinical trial of the drug Remdesivir and is one of the first regional centers given the green light to start drug tests.

“The safety profile looks really exceptionally good for Remdesivir,” Dr. Sanyal said.

There are two studies happening.

One for patients with mild symptoms and the other for those in critical condition.

“This is not the invisible man that shows up at your door without you knowing about it. This is a virus that’s transmitted through respiratory droplets,” Dr. Sanyal said.

This fight is far from over.

“We need more testing and we need more testing kits to become more widely available as they have been in other countries,” Dr. Sanyal said.

Over in the Infection Control Department health experts developed an in-house test for COVID-19.

Officials say this will significantly reduce wait times for results which will help reduce the spread.

This in house test was created in just 10 days.

“If we all do our part we will get ahead of this disease,” Dr. Sanyal said.

Remdesivir is an investigational agent — it is not approved anywhere globally and has not been demonstrated to be safe or effective for any use.

“The selection of VCU as a site for this global trial reflects our ability to bring multidisciplinary care to clinical trials and in having the capacity, the breadth and the depth of expertise needed to manage these patients,” said Sanyal, a professor of Internal Medicine in the VCU School of Medicine.

Remdesivir has previously shown antiviral activity against other coronaviruses like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in certain models.

VCU’s trials will 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.

For more details, click here.

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