Heartburn drug Pepcid could reduce COVID-19 symptoms, clinical trial suggests

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MANHASSET, New York (WABC) -- A heartburn drug commonly known as Pepcid has been shown to reduce COVID-19 symptoms and inflammation in the body, according to results published in a clinical trial on Tuesday.

The study was led by the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory -- the researchers want to inform the global community of their results to encourage further randomized controlled clinical trials for the heartburn drug famotidine.

The remote trial was launched in January 2021 with a focus on reaching diverse patient populations and 55 non-vaccinated patients were analyzed.

They were either given a placebo or 240/mg a day of famotidine -- which is six times the regular dosage.

The study says the results showed that patients on famotidine experienced better resolution of 14 out of 16 assessed symptoms -- including smell and taste, breathing and abdominal pain.

Those who took the drug had symptoms improve in eight days, whereas those with the placebo, had symptoms improve in 11 days.



While Jennifer Scruggs and her husband aren't exactly sure who took the drug and who took a placebo, the couple from Bethpage, who had COVID in January of last year, made some interesting observations while they sat at home and took part in the study.

"Once I became positive with COVID, I always wanted to give a little bit more to the research behind it," Scruggs said. "I mean I was jealous that he was getting his taste and smell back quicker and he was jealous that I wasn't as sick."

Doctors say say the results weren't just anecdotally significant, they were clinically significant too, and while Pepcid doesn't stop the COVID virus, it does seem to stop the body's immune system from going haywire, which could potentially help prevent death in some COVID patients in the future.

"Blood levels of Cytokine markers were much less, statistically less, in the patients with famotidine, as compared to patients taking placebo," Dr. Kevin Tracey at Feinstein Institutes at Northwell said.

While doctors say the drug is safe and well tolerated, more large-scale controlled clinical trials are needed before it should be considered for treatment.''

Researchers hope to do a phase 3 study with even more participants.

"We found that famotidine is safe at the higher doses used and see molecular and clinical evidence that it improves the recovery of symptomatic patients of diverse ancestries diagnosed with COVID-19," said Tobias Janowitz, MD, PhD, principal investigator of the trial, assistant professor at CSHL and adjunct professor at the Feinstein Institutes. "We closely monitored patients in this fully remote clinical trial while protecting their safety and that of health care providers in pandemic conditions. We hope that the data we are sharing with this study guide future trials that are necessary to confirm famotidine as a treatment for patients with COVID-19."

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