Austin hospitals to help test new COVID-19 treatment

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Both St. David’s Medical Center and South Austin Medical Center will participate in a nationwide study to test a new treatment for a leading cause of death related to COVID-19.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave biopharmaceutical company Humanigen approval to sponsor clinical trials in 18 hospitals across the country, including both Austin medical centers, for a new coronavirus treatment called lenzilumab, the company’s “Stop the Storm” website said.

The treatment is meant to reduce the risk of a condition known as cytokine storm, where the lungs of people infected with COVID-19 will inflame, decrease in oxygen levels and can ultimately lead to ventilation and death. Nearly 90% of people infected with the coronavirus are at risk of cytokine storm, according to the website.

Matthew Robinson, medical director of infectious diseases at St. David’s South, said the time frame for this trial period will depend on how many patients enroll in the trials. Humanigen is expecting to enroll 200 to 300 patients nationwide and present the data to the FDA by the end of the year.

Robinson said he is hopeful for the success of the treatment, as a previous placebo trial had shown a 80% reduction in COVID-19 patients who were using the treatment versus those who weren’t.

“I think this could… become a standard of treatment in patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19,” Robinson said.

Robinson said he doesn’t know and wouldn’t get a say as to what the cost of the treatment would look like, but he hopes it is widely distributed to the public with its costs mitigated through government action.

“The cost of running a trial like this and bringing a medication like this to market can’t be ignored,” Robinson said. “I think some of the medications we use now in the treatment of COVID came from this exact mechanism… and they were proven to be successful.”

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