The ACTT trial, which has already found that Gilead Sciences' remdesivir can hasten recovery in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, will now test whether adding beta interferon can improve its effects and speed recovery even more, reported The New York Times. A total of 1000 patients will receive either remdesivir and placebo, or remdesivir plus beta interferon.
A team of researchers held multiple group conference calls trying to select the new test drug for Phase III, according to Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California in San Francisco.
Their first suggestion was to try adding Merck & Co.'s oral antiviral drug EIDD-2801, but they wanted something that had already been approved and available for other diseases. They eventually settled on beta interferon, which is on the market as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.
Chin-Hong noted that the drug has been tested twice in COVID-19 patients, with promising results. One test was in England, where beta interferon or a placebo was provided to 101 hospitalized patients. They inhaled it in a nebulizer.
The study, although small, found that those who had received the drug recovered better than those who had received a placebo.
The other study, in Hong Kong, involved 127 patients who received beta interferon along with two antiviral drugs. The patients were hospitalized but many were not severely ill. The drug cocktail was superior to placebo in speeding recovery.
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