UTMC patients part of national study on COVID drugs

The study is being done by the National Institutes of Health
Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 6:09 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - UTMC is one of the first hospitals in the country to take part in a national study aimed at learning more about treatments for COVID.

The COVID-19 drug study is being done by the National Institutes of Health. The goal is to take what’s learned at places like UTMC to identify effective treatments that can then move on to be part of larger clinical trials.

Dr. Michael Ellis is the Chief Medical Officer at UTMC, and an infectious disease specialist.

“Those drugs that show a big effect move on to larger studies, those that don’t get pushed aside. It is a way to rapidly cycle through treatments for COVID,” he says.

Researchers say the study will quickly identify drugs that could help keep people off ventilators, get them out of the hospital sooner and help reduce the number of deaths. UTMC began enrolling patients in the study in November.

“The people in this study have COVID, are hospitalized and need oxygen. Our end point is looking at the first eight days. Do they get better, do they go home or do they get worse,” says Dr. Ellis.

UTMC will be treating patients selected for the clinical trial with either risankizumab or lenzilumab, which are monoclonal antibodies directed at different parts of the inflammatory response that are being investigated as potential treatments for COVID-19.

Both experimental drugs in the study will be paired with remdesivir, which has shown benefit to patients with severe COVID-19 infections.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-made proteins based on the natural antibodies our immune system produces to fight off disease. Risankizumab was approved in 2019 for the treatment of severe plaque psoriasis. Lenzilumab is in late-stage development as a treatment for leukemia.

And even with vaccines already being given, Dr. Ellis says this work is still critical.

“As long as COVID is around, and we do not know how long that will be, we need to have therapies that are effective. So it is important to keep moving forward on therapies as well as vaccines,” he says..

Right now UTMC is one of nine facilities recruiting people for the study. Up to 40 U.S. sites will eventually be involved in the research. The study will continue at UTMC for the next three years.

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