According to Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling, the health care provider is working on a trial using famotidine, and while it’s too early to definitively claim that the drug helps coronavirus patients, the researchers “have a reasonable confidence in this trial that it may make a difference,” CNBC reported.
Around 200 coronavirus patients at hospitals operated by Northwell Health in the New York City area started receiving famotidine intravenously earlier this month. Half of the patients enrolled in the trial are receiving megadoses of the drug - around nine times higher than the regular, over-the-counter dose - while the other half are receiving a placebo. All of the patients in the trial are also being given the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which has been touted by US President Donald Trump as a “game changer” in the treatment of the coronavirus.
However, the US Food and Drug Administration has warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine outside of hospital or clinical settings, because it has had serious adverse effects in some patients in other trials, causing them to develop irregular heart beats and die after taking daily doses.
Researchers have kept the famotidine study hush for the last several weeks because they were concerned people would rush to stores and buy the medication, which would prevent people with heartburn or stomach ulcers who actually need it from buying it.
“It’s very difficult to get at the moment. I believe Amazon is sold out. Because once the word gets out that this is something that could help, obviously there was a run on the supply, but we do have enough to do the trial and do it successfully,” Dowling told CNBC.
The famotidine trial is one of several being carried out by Northwell. It is also studying whether sarilumab, which is used for the treatment of arthritis, and remdesivir, which was created as a treatment for Ebola, could help treat coronavirus patients.