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Advances in Care

COVID-19: The Hunt for Better Treatment

Northwestern Medicine Helps Lead the Way

This article is modified from the original, which appeared in Northwestern Now. Read the full article here.

In the early weeks of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Northwestern Medicine physician-scientists were already fully engaged in researching medicines to treat the illness. By the end of March 2020, they had enrolled their first participants in a new international clinical trial examining remdesivir. This antiviral medication was initially developed to treat Ebola but had already shown some promise as a treatment for coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The trial is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

The trial is specifically examining the use of remdesivir in adult patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19, and the principal investigator at Northwestern Medicine is Babafemi O. Taiwo, MD, chief of Infectious Diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Medicine.

While the study is set to last three years, early results showed promise. In fact, by the end of April 2020, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD, announced that the trial data showed the medication shortened the length of COVID-19 illness and that the use of remdesivir “will be the standard of care.”

Northwestern Medicine scientists are also leading the Chicago leg of a global clinical trial of sarilumab to treat patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 and are severely or critically ill. The medicine, which helps alleviate an overactive inflammatory response in the body, is used to treat moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

“The reason some patients with COVID-19 develop lung injury is thought to result from an overly exuberant immune response to the virus,” explains Richard G. Wunderink, MD, pulmonary and critical care specialist, and medical director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.