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Active Compound in Popular Heartburn Drug Pepcid Being Tested for COVID-19 Treatment

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 29 Apr 2020
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A trial for famotidine, the active compound in the over-the-counter heartburn medication Pepcid, is underway at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research (Manhasset, NY, USA) to study if the drug can make a difference in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The researchers decided to conduct a drug trial for famotidine after encouraging reports from China. A review of 6,212 COVID-19 patient records revealed that a large number of survivors had been experiencing chronic heartburn and were taking famotidine instead of omeprazole (Prilosec) which is more expensive and preferred in the US and among the wealthier population in China. Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were taking famotidine seemed to have a lower death rate of 14% as against 27% for patients who were not taking the drug.

Additionally, molecular modeling results also suggested that famotidine, which appears to bind to a key enzyme in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), could deliver results. Famotidine is believed to bind to an enzyme critical to COVID-19. Similar to how protease inhibitors, which are used to treat HIV, stop the virus, famotidine’s structure can stop the coronavirus from replicating, at least theoretically.

The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration to conduct a trial using the intravenous version of famotidine. In addition to Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir and the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, the researchers are now also assessing famotidine in a small clinical trial which has enrolled 187 critical COVID-19 patients so far, including several on ventilators, and aims for a total of 1174 people. In the trial the patients are being intravenously administered nine times the amount of famotidine that a person would normally take to treat heartburn,

The researchers have been keeping the clinical trial of famotidine under wraps to ensure sufficient supply for their study, as well as avoid a rush to medication stores for the drug which would deny people with heartburn or stomach ulcers access to the drug.

Related Links:
Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research

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