Prof. Yaakov Nahmias (left) from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University's Prof. Yaakov Nahmias
Photo: Courtesy
Sheba Medical Center's coronavirus ward

Existing drug rapidly improves condition of COVID patients, Israeli study finds

Hebrew University researchers claim Tricor (fenofibrate) could potentially turn devastating disease into a far more manageable form of a mild respiratory illness, with 14 out of 15 serious patients being weaned off ventilators shortly after

TPS |
Published: 08.23.21, 15:14
Alipid-lowering drug reduces inflammation in coronavirus patients in 48 hours and removes the need for oxygen support within five to seven days, said a Hebrew University study published Monday.
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  • Recent vaccination efforts around the world have been hindered by multiple variants that challenge existing vaccines. While infection generally produces a mild disease, in some patients it can develop into a severe inflammatory illness, requiring medical intervention.
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    מחלקת הקורונה בבית החולים שיבא, תל השומר
    מחלקת הקורונה בבית החולים שיבא, תל השומר
    Sheba Medical Center's coronavirus ward
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    Recently, Professor Yaakov Nahmias’ team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported the new strain of coronavirus causes abnormal accumulation of lipids, which are known to initiate severe inflammation in a process called lipotoxicity.
    The team identified the lipid-lowering drug TriCor (fenofibrate) as an effective antiviral last year, proving that it both reduces lung cell damage and blocks virus replication. These results have since been confirmed by several international research teams.
    An observational study carried out in multiple clinical centers in Israel was reported last October to support the original findings. The team then launched an interventional clinical study to treat severe COVID-19 patients at Israel’s Barzilai Medical Center with support from Abbott Laboratories.
    Now, the HU team is reporting promising results of an investigator-initiated interventional open-label clinical study led by Nahmias and coordinated by Prof. Shlomo Maayan, head of Infectious Disease Unit at Barzilai. In this single-arm, open-label study, 15 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on oxygen support were treated. In addition to standard care, the patients were given 145 mg/day of TriCor for 10 days and continuously monitored for disease progression and outcomes.
    “The results were astounding”, shared Nahmias. “Progressive inflammation markers, that are the hallmark of deteriorative COVID-19, dropped within 48 hours of treatment. Moreover, 14 of the 15 severe patients didn’t require oxygen support within a week of treatment, while historical records show that the vast majority of severe patients treated with the standard of care require lengthy respiratory support,” he added.
    2 View gallery
    Prof. Yaakov Nahmias (left) from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    Prof. Yaakov Nahmias (left) from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    Hebrew University's Prof. Yaakov Nahmias
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    These results are promising as TriCor was approved by the FDA in 1975 for long-term use and has a strong safety record.
    “There are no silver bullets”, said Nahmias, “but fenofibrate is far safer than other drugs proposed to date, and its mechanism of action makes it less likely to be variant-specific”.
    “All patients were discharged within less than a week after the treatment began and were discharged to complete the 10-day treatment at home, with no drug-related adverse events reported,” noted Maayan.
    “Further, fewer patients reported COVID-19 side effects during their 4-week follow-up appointment,” he added. These preliminary findings offer promise to relieve the substantial health burdens experienced by patients who survive the acute phase of COVID-19,” he said.
    The investigators stressed that while the results were extremely promising, only randomized placebo-controlled studies can serve as basis for clinical decisions. “We entered the second phase of the study and are actively recruiting patients”, said Nahmias, noting that two Phase 3 studies are already being conducted in running South America, the United States and Israel.

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