UT Health San Antonio leads COVID-19 treatment study

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Infectious disease physicians at UT Health San Antonio are among the first in the nation to test an investigational drug developed to treat the novel coronavirus.

Thomas Patterson, M.D., professor in the Long School of Medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Disease, is leading the study center that will enroll patients under care at University Hospital.

The first COVID-19 patient enrolled at University Hospital was on March 26, Dr. Patterson said.

The investigational drug, called remdesivir, is for adults 18 and older. This study is reserved for hospitalized patients who are critically ill. It is not open to members of the public.

Worldwide, 440 patients are being sought for the study, which is being conducted at 75 study sites, located primarily in the U.S.

The purpose of the trial is to compare the safety and effectiveness of remdesivir with a placebo to establish the safety and effectiveness of this drug.

“The study will evolve as we learn which agents work best. If remdesivir is safe and effective, then it will become the standard of care for the trial and new investigational drugs will be studied. There will be periodic monitoring points that will allow us to stop treatment with drugs that aren’t as effective and start testing new therapies as they are developed,” Dr. Patterson said.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is sponsoring the trial, remdesivir has shown promise in laboratory and animal tests against COVID-19 and several other related viruses.

It works by stopping an early mechanism the virus uses to reproduce. The drug has been tested in humans with Ebola. It also has been tested in animals in studies of the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are caused by other coronaviruses.

“This was an incredible team effort. Research leaders at UT Health San Antonio, including our Institutional Review Board, Clinical Trials Office, Clinical Translational Science Award group and Office of the Vice President for Research all collaborated quickly with University Health System, our clinical partner, for incredibly fast activation of this trial as soon as we learned we were a study site,” Dr. Patterson said.

“Our nurses and doctors are very encouraged to be able to offer this antiviral, which appears to be the most active to date against SAR-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19,” he said. “We anticipate that patients will be enthusiastic about participating.”

Brooke Army Medical Center is the only other San Antonio study site. Sites in Houston, Galveston and Dallas also are testing the drug in Texas.

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