TTUHSC El Paso Part of NIH Trials to Find Effective COVID-19 Treatments

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso has received a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for two projects to test treatments for COVID-19.
The first project is TTUHSC El Paso’s collaboration in ACTIV-6, a national trial of existing drugs to determine their effectiveness in treating COVID-19. A second project, led by Edward Michelson, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Foster School of Medicine, focuses on an over-the-counter treatment for nasal allergies as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
“At TTUHSC El Paso, we’re researching different aspects of COVID-19,” said Dr. Michelson, who’s also medical director of the emergency department at University Medical Center of El Paso. “From diagnostic tests to therapeutic trials, our research will benefit our patients, the local community, and if we’re successful, the world.”
ACTIV-6 will test several drugs – previously approved by the FDA for other illnesses – to see if they can also treat COVID-19 patients, particularly those who are not hospitalized.
Participating universities will test three different drugs. Depending on a drug’s success or failure, it may be dropped from the study or expanded for testing at other sites. TTUHSC El Paso will first test ivermectin, fluvoxamine and fluticasone.
Ivermectin, normally used to treat conditions caused by parasitic worms, has been in the news lately, with some people self-medicating with versions of the drug meant for use in animals. However, Dr. Michelson said ivermectin, for human use, will be prescribed in doses based on patient weight. Results from prior trials of ivermectin have produced mixed results. This study should enroll enough patients to finally determine if ivermectin benefits COVID-19 patients. 
Fluvoxamine is a drug used in psychiatry that has been shown in small studies to help keep patients with COVID-19 out of the hospital. Fluticasone is a strong steroid spray inhaled by some patients with asthma. This medication may reduce the lung injury associated with COVID-19 pneumonia.
“The fact that El Pasoans have access to treatments that are part of national clinical trials is important,” Dr. Michelson said. “This study benefits the community because it gives them a chance to be part of cutting-edge medical research.”
The second trial will test cromolyn, an inexpensive generic drug used to treat eye and nasal allergies, as well as asthma symptoms. It’s available by prescription as a nebulizer solution or eye drop, or as a nonprescription nasal spray.
Cromolyn reduces inflammation of the lungs, which is one way COVID-19 causes serious illness. Dr. Michelson’s seen anecdotal evidence that the nasal spray formulation of cromolyn could be effective for treating COVID-19 patients.
“If it turns out to be effective, then it could be used as a home treatment,” Dr. Michelson said. “Because it’s inexpensive, it also would be a best option for developing nations and lower-income areas.”
Patients will be treated with cromolyn at the hospital and stay on the medication for about three weeks after leaving.
“They won’t be the sickest inpatients, but they’ll have evidence of pneumonia from COVID-19 and require supplemental oxygen,” Dr. Michelson said. “This could be helpful in curbing the long-term effects of COVID-19 that we’ve been hearing and reading about.”
If the study shows cromolyn has promise as a treatment, Dr. Michelson will propose it be added to the list of the drugs to be evaluated in the ACTIV-6 study.
MEDIA CONTACTS:
Berenice Zubia at 915-253-9399 or news.ep@ttuhsc.edu
Source: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso