Doctors testing heartburn drug for COVID-19 treatment

Could a drug be used to treat heartburn also help people who are sick with COVID-19?  

Doctors in New York are launching a clinical trial into Famotidine, which is the key ingredient in Pepcid.

“The issue really is that in China it was observed that patients who had come to the hospital already on what we know as Pepcid, but were going to call Famotidine, which is the generic name. In retrospect, [they] fared better than patients who did not take Famotidine,” said Dr. David Battinelli, senior vice president of Northwell Health.

Northwell Health, which has 23 hospitals in New York, is leading the research.

Dr. Battinelli says around 200 patients have been enrolled in the study, so far, and the goal is to have roughly 1,200.  

“We are giving a much higher dose than what is normally used to suppress stomach acid,” he said.

Dr. Battinelli also says the drug is being given through an IV to patients as soon as they come into a hospital.

Scientists want to find out if Famotidine can work as an anti-viral after it was first tested in computer models with promising results.

“Noticed that it had, or fit directly into an area that would function as a protease inhibitor to the virus, which means that it will stop the virus from beginning to replicate and rebuild its envelope, and therefore, have a direct anti-viral effect in theory,” he said.

Before the findings are out, people are already buying it up.

While FOX 35 did see some Pepcid at a local Walgreens, it was wiped out at a Publix in Winter Park.

Doctors say when the results are in, it will depend on how quickly they can get people to take part in the trial.

It could be as early as four weeks from now.