University Hospital becomes world’s largest study site for promising COVID-19 drug

July 10, 2020

The infectious disease team at University Health System and UT Health San Antonio enrolled more patients than any other research site in the world during the ongoing second phase of the clinical study for the drug remdesivir.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of the medication after early results showed hospital stays for patients with COVID-19 were shortened and the mortality rate was reduced. The study, called the Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial, ACTT, is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID.

Dr. Thomas Patterson, who is leading the study at University Hospital, said 96 of the hospital’s COVID-19 patients agreed to participate in the second phase of the double-blind clinical trial. All of the patients in the second phase, which began in May and will end in late July, received remdesivir. Some of the patients also received Baricitinib, an anti-inflammatory medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Patterson said the contribution of University Hospital patients to the ultimate findings is significant since they comprise about 10% of all patients in the study who are enrolled at about 100 research locations worldwide.

“Our physicians and staff at University Hospital are committed to the study and wanted to allow our patients to participate,” said Dr. Patterson, acknowledging the successful recruiting was in part due to a recent spike in the number of coronavirus patients. Access to remdesivir for patients outside of the study is limited, so enrolling as many qualified COVID-19 patients as possible in the clinical trial was a priority.

“It’s a way we could expand the treatment with remdesivir to more people,” said Dr. Patterson, who believes the drug has already proven to be effective.

“If you can get people out of the hospital sooner and prevent progression of the disease it’s a dramatic measure. That also frees up beds you may urgently need for other patients,” said Dr. Patterson.

Researchers are still evaluating the effectiveness of combining an anti-inflammatory like Baricitinib with remdesivir, though Dr. Patterson said he observed a notable number of early patient recoveries and less severe illness for some during this second phase.

For the third phase of the study, researchers will pair remdesivir with an additional antiviral medication that may further help the body’s immune system fight off the COVID-19 disease. Patient enrollment for phase three is expected to begin in several weeks.

Remdesivir was developed by Gilead Sciences, Inc. Baricitinib is a product licensed to Eli Lilly and Company by Incyte.