NIH begins clinical trial of drug to treat COVID-19

February 26, 2020

Image with caption: Andre Kalil, M.D., professor of internal medicine at UNMC, is leading the trial at UNMC.

Andre Kalil, M.D., professor of internal medicine at UNMC, is leading the trial at UNMC.

A randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the investigational antiviral remdesivir in hospitalized adults diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at UNMC in Omaha.

The trial regulatory sponsor is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. This is the first clinical trial in the United States to evaluate an experimental treatment for COVID-19, the respiratory disease first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Andre Kalil, M.D., professor of internal medicine at UNMC and an infectious diseases physician at Nebraska Medicine, is leading the trial at UNMC. The first trial participant is an American who was repatriated after being quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Yokohama, Japan and volunteered to participate in the study. The study can be adapted to evaluate additional investigative treatments and to enroll participants at other sites in the U.S. and worldwide.

There are no specific therapeutics approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the newly emergent SARS-CoV-2 virus (formerly known as 2019-nCoV). Infection can cause mild to severe respiratory illness, and symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. As of Feb. 24, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 77,262 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,595 deaths in China and 2,069 cases of COVID-19 and 23 deaths in 29 other countries. There have been 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in the United States and an additional 39 cases among persons repatriated to the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences Inc., is an investigational broad-spectrum antiviral treatment. It was previously tested in humans with Ebola virus disease and has shown promise in animal models for treating Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are caused by other coronaviruses.

"We urgently need a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19. Although remdesivir has been administered to some patients with COVID-19, we do not have solid data to indicate it can improve clinical outcomes," said NIAID Director and U.S. Coronavirus Task Force member Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "A randomized, placebo-controlled trial is the gold standard for determining if an experimental treatment can benefit patients."

Clinical trials of remdesivir are also ongoing in China. NIAID developed the current study taking those designs into account, and in accordance with consultations convened by the WHO on the development of a therapeutic trial for patients with COVID-19.

"We thank the individuals for their participation in this trial, and we are pleased that the NIH has chosen UNMC/Nebraska Medicine as the site for this important work," said Dr. Kalil. "Our expertise in treating highly infectious disease -- as well as our capacity to conduct leading-edge clinical trials -- will ensure that this trial is carried out in the most effective manner possible."

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Judy white
February 26, 2020 at 12:43 PM

Please be relentless in your pursuit. Thank you.