Coronavirus patients who took heartburn drug famotidine less likely to die: Study

A patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital in Vannes during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in France. (Reuters)

Coronavirus patients who took the over-the-counter drug famotidine commonly used to treat heartburn were less likely to die or intubated and put on a ventilator, according to a new paper published by physicians in New York.

The study, which was published by physicians at hospitals under the Northwell Health group, found that among a study of 1,536 patients, 332 patients who did not take famotidine either died or were intubated and put on a ventilator. The study found that 82 patients who were taking famotidine did not survive.

“In patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and not initially in an intensive care setting, famotidine use was associated with a two-fold reduction in clinical deterioration leading to intubation or death,” the paper’s conclusion read.

The paper’s authors cautioned that their findings were observational and should not be interpreted to indicate that famotidine has a protective effect in patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

The new study comes on the heels of reports that confirmed the number of novel coronavirus cases recorded worldwide surpassed four million on Saturday.

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“However, in light of the potential antiviral effects of famotidine, randomized trials have been undertaken to determine whether famotidine improves clinical outcomes in patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” they concluded.

Famotidine is an active ingredient found in the popular over-the-counter drug Pepcid used commonly in treatments of heartburn.

“It is not clear why those patients who received famotidine had improved outcomes,” the authors wrote in their statement posted on CNN. “This is merely an association, and these findings should not be interpreted to mean that famotidine improves outcomes in patients hospitalized with COVID-19.”

The race to develop a vaccine that would end the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating as several firms move to clinical trials – but the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that it is unlikely we will have a vaccine before the end of 2021.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:07 - GMT 11:07
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