A hospital in New York City is testing the popular heartburn medicine as a treatment for coronavirus. The doctor who started the initial testing of famotidine on the patients said that the preliminary results for the tests could come out in the next few weeks.

Researchers have been discreetly studying the potential treatment since March. Famotidine is an active ingredient in Pepcid, which is an over-the-counter medicine for heartburn. Researchers from Northwell Health have been administering the medicine through IV to Covid-19 patients at the hospital. The patients have been given a larger than usual dosage of the medicine. The drug is said to be combined with hydroxychloroquine.

The researchers told the media that some data about the safety of the medicine will be available in the coming weeks but the effectiveness of the medicine is still being analysed.

SARS-CoV-2
SARS-CoV-2 Pixabay

Patients in critical condition

As of Saturday, several patients who are in critical condition were administered the medicine. Closer examination of the molecular modelling results suggested that the drug binds to a key enzyme in the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Kevin Tracey, who is a former neurosurgeon in charge of the hospital system's research, told Science that "If we talked about this to the wrong people or too soon, the drug supply would be gone."

He also said that the effectiveness of the combination will be known in a few weeks. The study was conducted under the radar to avoid media attention, says the doctor. More than 180 patients have been enrolled in the study so far. Hydroxychloroquine was added to the mix in mid-March before the drug showed any potential risk to the patients.

Tracey said that the study was also being conducted in China where they are researching the effectiveness of the drug on Covid-19 patients. He said that the idea came from friend and colleague, Dr Michael Callahan.