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Researchers Launch Trial Of Treatments For Severe COVID-19 Patients

MURRAY, Utah – Researchers at Intermountain Healthcare announced they were leading a new clinical trial intended to help the COVID-19 patients least likely to leave the hospital alive.

Officials said they want to find out how well two treatments work for COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

“We have had some real successes in identifying therapies, but so far, we’ve been struggling to find therapies that will work for the sickest of the sick, the people who are on life-support treatment because their lungs are failing,” said Dr. Samuel Brown, Intermountain Healthcare’s medical director of critical care and pulmonary research, who is also the principal investigator in the Phase 3 trial.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, doctors at Intermountain Healthcare have tested ways to treat patients with COVID-19 once it gets into their lungs and makes them deathly ill. Now, they are seeking solid answers.

“The typical person infected with COVID has a nasty cold and gets better,” Brown said.

Brown said the fact that COVID-19 is so highly transmissible enables the virus to infect so many people.

“So you get huge numbers infected, and then you end up with large numbers of people who get very very sick,” said Brown.

While more people get vaccinated across the country, Brown said doctors still need treatments for those who are getting infected. They’ve used several therapeutics, or treatments, that seem to work well.

“It’s promising,” Brown said. “But we really want to know the answer: does it work or does it not?”

The National Institutes of Health launched a study at sites around the world, bringing together major hospitals from across the country, including in Utah. The University of Utah Hospital will also participate in the trial.

The randomized trial will test two therapeutic agents, Zyesami and remdesivir, in hospitalized COVID-19 patients with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS. That’s a life-threatening condition in which the lungs are inflamed and may not be able to maintain sufficient oxygen in the blood.

“It’s devastating,” said Brown. “It can kill 20-40% of the people inflicted by it, and the majority of survivors may take six months, 12 months or five years to recover.”

Some may never completely recover, he said, adding that ARDS is the main way people have been dying from COVID-19.

How quickly they get answers in the trial depends on how many patients have COVID-19 in the areas where they are conducting the trial, which will likely be 80 sites globally when the trial is up and running.

“If we have large amounts of COVID in the hospitals and large numbers of patients in this trial, we’ll be able to answer the question quickly,” said Brown. “If, however, it moves to a kind of smolder the way the H1N1 was, then it will take us longer.”

Brown said this was the first trial that focuses entirely on patients with the most severe phase of COVID-19.

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