University Hospitals to begin clinical trial of drug to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19

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Posted at 11:59 AM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 12:01:11-04

CLEVELAND — During the COVID-19 pandemic, University Hospitals has been at the forefront, working tirelessly on testing and clinical trials to find an antiviral to combat the spread, and now they’re leading the charge to protect those on the frontlines from the virus.

University Hospitals will lead a clinical trial involving the administration of an investigational drug, ARMS-I, to healthcare providers on the frontlines, testing to see if the drug helps prevent airborne transmission of coronavirus as well as testing to see if it reduces symptoms of the healthcare workers who have tested positive for COVID-19.

While University Hospitals will serve as the base for the trial, other Northeast Ohio health systems will participate as additional sites for recruitment.

Trial participants will include clinical staff who are directly caring for patients. The trial is a randomized placebo-controlled crossover study, but during the length of the trial, everyone involved will get the investigational drug even if they started with the placebo, the hospital said.

University Hospitals previously tested the ARMS-I drug in a clinical trial aimed at reducing upper respiratory infections. In laboratory studies, the drug has been shown to kill enveloped viruses, including influenza, according to the hospital. COVID-19 is also an enveloped virus.

The theory is that the ARMS-I drug, applied to the back of the throat, may work to prevent new airborne viral particles from attaching and would, therefore, stop transmission, according to Afif Ghannoum, Chief Executive Officer of ARMS Pharmaceutical.

To help fund the clinical trial, the Cleveland Foundation has authorized $1 million in emergency funding from “previously restricted health-related research grant dollars at the foundation,” University Hospitals said.

The study will be conducted by the UH Clinical Research Center with Robert Salata, MD, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at UH Cleveland Medical Center, Program Director of the UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health and Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and International Health at Case Western Reserve University, serving as the principal investigator.

University Hospitals said it expects the trial to begin in the next two weeks.

“Our health care workers risk exposure to the coronavirus every day and it’s important to find strategies that might help them, beyond providing personal protective equipment,” Dr. Robert Salata said.

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