Northwell Health launches trials for drugs to treat coronavirus patients

Northwell Health is conducting the first clinical trials in the region to see if certain drugs help patients recover from the worst effects of the novel coronavirus.

Northwell — which runs Lenox Hill, Long Island Jewish, Staten Island University and North Shore hospitals — will partner with Gilead Sciences to see if the antiviral drug remdesivir (RDV) reduces the “intensity and duration” of the illnesses that sock COVID-19 patients.

RDV has helped improve the condition of patients who had MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and Ebola.

A coronavirus-infected patient in the state of Washington claimed RDV saved his life.

Northwell is conducting another trial with drug manufacturers Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi. This trial will give patients sarilumab, a human antibody that may help block inflammation of the lungs and prevent pneumonia.

Sarilumab specifically could prevent a cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6), which triggers severe pneumonia in some COVID-19 patients.

Preliminary data from a Chinese trial showed rapid reductions in fever in all patients that used the IL-6 inhibitor, researchers said.

The Federal Drug Administration gave swift approval for the trials, which normally take months.

The doctors said the experimental treatments are the next best thing until a proven vaccine is developed to prevent Coronavirus.

“What we obviously need around the world is a vaccine. But the vaccine is a year-and-half-away,” said Dr. Kevin Tracey, who heads Northwell’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research.

In the meantime “some patients may benefit” from the experimental drugs, he said.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top federal doctor advising President Donald Trump, cautioned that “there’s no magic drug” to treat COVID-19.

Dr. David Weinreich, head of global clinical development at Regeneron, said Mt. Sinai and Presbyterian hospitals in New York City are expected to soon participate in the trials as well.

Both of the experimental drugs will be administered intravenously.

“We’ve joined with three outstanding companies to immediately begin clinical trials for patients now suffering from COVID-19 and are determined to do all we can to stop the virus in its tracks,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health.

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