‘Watershed moment:” Chicagoans among first to test promising treatment for COVID-19

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — A drug doctors have mentioned repeatedly as a possible therapy for COVID-19 holds out hope for reducing severity and duration of symptoms. 

And now Chicagoans will be first in line to test it.

Inside the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, an IV drip and a drug are a step toward a treatment for COVID-19.

Northwestern Medicine Infectious Disease Physician Dr Babafemi Taiwo called it “a watershed moment.”

It is one patients and their families around the world have been hoping for since the start of the global pandemic.

In Chicago, an 89-year-old patient led the way toward a possible new treatment when, earlier this week, he was among the first to take part in a clinical trial to test Remdesivir, an anti-viral medication that was initially developed for Ebola patients. It is known to be active against other forms of coronavirus including SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“It is a really special drug from that perspective and hopefully one that will live up to his promise,” Taiwo said.

The drug trial was given the greenlight by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Patients will receive an infusion of Remdesivir or placebo in the randomized, double blind study.

“Each participant has a 50/50 chance of getting the active drug or placebo,” Taiwo said. “And that continues every day for up to 10 days.”

Northwestern has already enrolled eight patients. For many, it was family members who agreed on behalf of their loved ones too critically ill and on ventilators.

“All the families of the volunteers, and the volunteers themselves, are the true heroes of this effort,” Taiwo said. “Because they are volunteering for something without any promise of direct benefit.”

Researchers believe Remdesivir stops the virus from reproducing in the body, lessening the severity of illness.

“The first question being asked is, is this drug safe? The next question is it effective?” Taiwo said. “Our hope is this trial will address both and give us answers we desperately need for our patient.”

There were side effects noted in Ebola patients who were given Remdesivir including compromised liver function and gastrointestinal problems like nausea and vomiting. All issues were resolved and returned to normal over time.

Worldwide, researchers are hoping to enroll 440 patients.

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