Heartburn medication being tested as coronavirus treatment in NYC hospitals

(Photo by Army Spc. Samuel D. Keenan)

Currently, there is no known scientific cure for the disease known as COVID-19, but researchers at a New York City hospital system are testing a compound found in heartburn medication to see if it can be used as treatment.

Northwell Health is trialing the compound famotidine, which is found in the heartburn drug Pepcid, in more than 150 patients to see if it inhibits the coronavirus, in a similar fashion that certain drugs block HIV/AIDS replication.

Speaking with Science Mag, which first reported the news, Kevin Tracey, a former neurosurgeon in charge of Northwell Health's research said that he kept the news of the trial under wraps, for fear of a run on the supply. This happened with lupus patients and hydroxychloroquine earlier this month, Fox News previously reported.

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“If we talked about this to the wrong people or too soon, the drug supply would be gone,” Tracey told the news outlet.

He added that he would keep results of the trial's prospects until the initial results from the first 391 patients (they hope to have nearly 1,200 patients) have been tallied. “If it does work, we’ll know in a few weeks,” he explained.

According to the New York Post, Northwell’s North Shore University Hospital, Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Lenox Hill Hospital are participating in the study.

Fox News has reached out to a Northwell Health with a request for comment for this story.

The trial is combining famotidine along with hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug first used in the 1950s. Last week, the FDA warned the drug, which President Trump has touted as a potential "game-changer," should be avoided outside of hospitals, following reports of “serious heart rhythm problems.”

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The group taking famotidine will be compared with a group taking only hydroxychloroquine, as well as a control group.

A recent study performed at U.S. veterans hospitals showed the drug provided no benefit to COVID-19 patients. However, the study cohort comprised only men whose median age was over 65 years. The VA told Fox News that the research findings should not be viewed as definitive, noting that it was not a clinical trial.

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As of Monday morning, nearly 3 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, more than 965,000 of which are in the U.S., the most impacted country on the planet.

Fox News' Madeline Farber and James Rogers contributed to this story.