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UVA conducts clinical trial to test potential COVID-19 medication

Doctors at UVA have begun a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the anti-viral drug remdesivir.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — As doctors across the world work to find a treatment for COVID-19, medical researchers at the University of Virginia have joined the effort. UVA has launched a clinical trial of the antiviral drug remdesivir.

Dr. Patrick Jackson, an infectious diseases doctor at UVA, is the lead investigator in the clinical trial.

“There is no treatment currently proven for this disease, but remdesivir looks to be the most promising drug,” said Jackson. "It has looked good in in-vitro studies, there have been some positive results in animal models for coronaviruses and it was tried during the Ebola outbreak. Its safety profile is pretty favorable, so we’re hopeful that this drug will prove to be an effective treatment for COVID-19, but the only way to know that is to do clinical trials like this one.”

Jackson said remdesivir has shown promise when it comes to animal studies against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are both caused by different types of coronavirus.

UVA will give an estimated 440 participants remdesivir or a placebo for up to 10 days. Doctors will then assess trial participants daily in order to collect data on their conditions.

Recently, President Trump has touted drugs like hydroxychloroquine, also known as Plaquenil, as potential treatments for COVID-19. However, medical experts have yet to prove whether the drug is effective.

Until medical professionals have robust data from clinical trials, taking certain medications to treat COVID-19 can be harmful.

“Every medication has its own side effects. With remdesivir, the most likely is nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,” said Jackson. “Things like hydroxychloroquine have been associated with changes in heart rhythm and that can be dangerous to folks.”

The National Institute of Health (NIH) is sponsoring UVA’s clinical trial.

UVA is one of only 60 medical institutions in the world to conduct a clinical trial of remdesivir. Jackson said the university expects to have preliminary results from its clinical trial within several weeks to a month.

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