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'Results are impressive': new COVID-19 drug cuts ventilator requirements by 80%

The preliminary results of a clinical trial of a new drug for the treatment of coronavirus showed that its use dramatically reduces the number of patients who require mechanical ventilation, while the time spent by the patient in the hospital is reduced by a third. Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

The treatment, developed by the British biotechnology company Synairgen, uses the protein interferon beta, which the human body produces to fight off viral infections.

During treatment, this protein must be inhaled using a special inhaler - a nebulizer.

The nebulizer is used in the treatment of bronchial asthma and a number of respiratory diseases, with its help the medicine is injected into the lungs in the form of a fine aerosol, stimulating the body's immune response.

Preliminary results from the study show that this treatment reduces by 79% the number of patients who develop severe disease in the hospital requiring mechanical ventilation.

Patients are two to three times more likely to improve to a state where the disease does not interfere with their normal daily activities.

Interferon beta also reduces the number of patients experiencing choking. And the time they spend in the hospital is reduced by a third - from nine days to six.

How was the study

The double-blind study involved 101 volunteers from nine British hospitals. Half of the participants took the new drug, the other half received a placebo.

None of the study participants knew which patients were given which treatment until it was over.

The results of this study are currently considered unconfirmed as the company has not published its results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The full study data has not yet been published.

However, Tom Wilkinson, head of the study, believes that if the results are confirmed, the new drug will change the treatment landscape for the disease. While the study itself was small, he said, the results are impressive.

Synairgen CEO Richard Marsden called the results a major breakthrough in inpatient care for Covid-19 patients.

“We couldn't expect better results than these,” he added.

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What will happen next?

The company will be presenting its findings to healthcare authorities around the world in the next couple of days to see what additional information they need to approve treatment.

The process can usually take months, but the British government, like many others, has said it will work as quickly as possible to approve new developments that promise effective treatments for Covid-19.

Therefore, the new treatment can be approved urgently, as was the case with remdesivir in May.

It is also possible that the treatment will be allowed to be tested on more patients, and the results will be carefully studied to confirm its safety and effectiveness.

If the treatment is approved, the drug and nebulizers will need to be produced in large quantities.

Richard Marsden said that he had given the order to start production of the new drug back in April so that it would already be in stock if the study's positive results were confirmed.

According to him, Synairgen will be able to supply several hundred thousand doses of medicine a month by winter.

How does interferon beta work?

Interferon beta is part of the body's first line of defense against viruses, warning it of a possible viral attack.

The coronavirus appears to suppress its production in order to bypass the immune system.

The new drug is a special formulation of interferon beta, delivered directly to the respiratory tract through a nebulizer, which converts this protein into an aerosol.

The idea is that a dose of protein delivered directly to the lungs will elicit a stronger antiviral response even in those patients whose immune systems are already weakened by the virus.

Interferon beta is commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis.

Previous clinical trials by Synairgen have shown that interferon beta stimulates the immune response and helps patients with asthma and other chronic diseases.

Synairgen's drug trial was part of the Accord program set up by the British government to accelerate the development of new drugs for Covid-19 patients.

The developers believe that this drug may be even more effective in the early stages of infection.

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What experts say

“These results are impossible to assess. We need complete data and, more importantly, a test report. The trial must be registered and the protocol is available before analysis and conclusions can be made, ”said Professor Steve Goodacre of the University of Sheffield, who specializes in emergency care.

Professor Navid Sattar, a metabolic medicine specialist at the University of Glasgow, called the results impressive: "Although the study was small, with just over 100 participants, 79% reduction in the chance of developing severe disease could make a difference."

“It would be a good idea to review the full results of the study after they have been presented and reviewed by experts to ensure that they are reliable and that the tests have been carried out properly. In addition, the fact that the trials were conducted in a small number of patients reduces confidence in the actual benefits of such treatment. There is also no confidence that it will help people in different risk groups. More extensive testing is needed to obtain these data. Despite this, the results are still impressive, ”he says.

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