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This common drug might save people with COVID-19

Published Jan 15th, 2021 4:14PM EST
Covid Treatment Drug
Image: Darren Hester/Adobe

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  • A new study suggests that the anti-cholesterol drug Fenofibrate, also known as Ticor, can help treat coronavirus patients.
  • In lab testing with the drug, the coronavirus completely went away after just five days.
  • Clinical trials with Fenofibrate began a few weeks ago and the results should be available in the next few months.

A new research study finds that the drug Fenofibrate — which is used to help keep cholesterol levels low — can potentially help treat patients suffering from the coronavirus. The study, which was recently highlighted by Knowridge, relays that the coronavirus typically impacts the body’s ability to burn carbohydrates. This, in turn, causes “large amounts of fat to accumulate inside lung cells, a condition the virus needs in order to reproduce.”

Indeed, some researchers speculate that this is why people with comorbidities like diabetes and heart disease tend to experience more severe coronavirus symptoms. With this information in tow, researchers from Hebrew University began looking at several FDA-approved drugs designed to combat the accumulation of fat. Before long, researchers began to hone in on Fenofibrate, a drug that’s sold under the name Tricor. The drug arrived in the mid-70s and is currently used by upwards of 10 million people with high cholesterol.

“In lab studies, the cholesterol-lowering drug Fenofibrate (Tricor) showed extremely promising results,” the report reads. “By allowing lung cells to burn more fat, fenofibrate breaks the virus’ grip on these cells and prevents SARS CoV-2’s ability to reproduce. In fact, within only five days of treatment, the virus almost completely disappeared.”

One of the study’s authors, Professor Yaakov Nahmias, adds:

We showed that the human lungs responded to the SARS-CoV-2 virus by completely changing their metabolism, causing a major buildup of fats in lung cells. Our findings show that this unhealthy fat buildup is a critical factor in COVID-19 patient’s deterioration. Patients taking fibrates that work directly to breakdown fats recovered fast from the disease, while those taking medications that build fats like thiazolidinediones, showed greater lung damage and mortality.

Phase-3 clinical trials involving the drug began in December with help from the U.S-based pharmaceutical giant Abbott. If the clinical trials prove to be promising, it would certainly bode well for COVID-19 treatment given that Fenofibrate is a relatively affordable drug that typically doesn’t cause side effects.

“Even as we see the introduction of numerous vaccines intended to reduce the transmission of the disease and protect vulnerable populations, this drug can help the direct treatment of the virus and reduce its severity and mortality,” infectious disease expert Dr. Shlomo Maayan said. “We hope to see the first results of the clinical phase of this study in the coming months.”

The work here is interesting because it’s equally as important to treat severe cases of COVID as it is to prevent it entirely. Recall that President Trump managed to make a full recovery after receiving an experimental antibody cocktail from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Incidentally, Regeneron this week said that the U.S. is planning to purchase an additional 1.25 million doses of the cocktail.

Regeneron boasts that patients who received the drug during clinical trials “experienced significant reductions in virus levels and required fewer medical visits for COVID-19, suggesting the therapy can help reduce the current burden on hospitals and healthcare systems.”

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.