AUSTIN (KXAN) – The antiviral drug Merimepodib, originally developed to treat hepatitis-C, is now part of a Phase II study at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. The hospital has begun enrolling patients as part of the trial. The drug is being used in conjunction with the antiviral Remdesivir, the primary treatment being used across the country.

Merimepodib, in a lab, showed the ability to work with Remdesivir, boosting the viral fighting ability of Remdesivir.  According to Dr. Matthew Robinson, Director of Infectious Diseases at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, the two drugs seem to work better when used together.

“They had a synergistic effect when combined with one another,” Dr. Robinson says.

A recent study conducted by Baylor Scott and White found that patients treated with Remdesivir who had severe Covid symptoms saw their survival chances improve by 62%.

The new drug trial that is testing out the combination of Remdesivir and Merimedpodib will take place at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center as well as several other sites across the country. 15-20 patients could participate in the trial. All the patients must be on oxygen, but not on a respirator.

All of the participants will be given Remdesivir, while only half will be given a combination of the drugs. The remaining participants will be given Remdesivir and a placebo. Remdesivir is administered through an IV drip, while Merimedpodib and the placebo will be administered orally.

According to Doctor Robinson, the team doesn’t have any long-term concerns about the patients taking the antivirals. The drugs half a short half-life and do not stay in the body very long.

Dr. Robinson says antivirals trials and the analysis that follows can take months, but the pandemic should accelerate that process. “It could be more a matter of days to weeks, depending on the trial data once its evaluated,” Dr. Robinson says.

Merimedpodib was developed decades ago as a treatment for hepatitis-C, but didn’t prove to be super effective at the time. Remdesivir was also developed for the same virus. Dr. Robinson says that Merimedpodib has shown it is more effective on acute viruses, like COVID-19, as opposed to chronic viruses such as hepatitis-C.