Utah doctors put possible COVID-19 fighting drugs to test in clinical research trial

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MURRAY (ABC4 News) – We’ve heard President Donald Trump talk a lot about the drugs hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as possible treatments for COVID-19. Now doctors at University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare are putting them to the test in a clinical research trial.

Usually a clinical trial like this takes up to a year to launch but with lives hanging in the balance, doctors and researchers here were able to get this off the ground in just two weeks.

Intermountain Healthcare Critical Care Researcher Dr. Samuel Brown is the principal investigator for the study of hospitalized patients.

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“We heard the cry of distress from the community,” Dr. Brown said. “We realize the urgency of the pandemic. We said ‘What can we do in community hospitals, non-research hospitals, without all the requirements and rigidity that’s usually done in a study, and still achieving a careful attention to safety.”

The trial will study the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, and azithromycin, a common antibiotic, on 1500 volunteer patients with COVID-19.

Researchers say their partnership with ARUP Laboratories they’ll be able to test subjects multiple times and track viral shedding, the amount of virus that patients emit through nose and mouth droplets.

Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Adam M. Spivak of University of Utah Health says the outpatient study will be unprecedented.

RELATED: Utahns dependent on hydroxychloroquine concerned about availability after Trump praised drug as possible treatment for COVID-19

“With that level of detail we’ll be able to get a better understanding of not only what hydroxychloroquine can do in terms or reducing that viral shedding,” Dr. Spivak said. “But also define what that looks like in the household. That’s not a question that has been answered to date at least not in the United States.”

“The goal of this trial is to make people better,” Dr. Brown said. “We use the World Health Organization COVID Outcome Scale. At two weeks after we look to see are patients improving and are these real improvements? Are they getting off life-support? Are they getting off oxygen?”

The planned six-month trial is already underway and researchers hop to have the first results in 10 to 12 weeks. 

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