Though much of the health community has been focused on a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, doctors have started eagerly hailing a new children’s drug as a potential cure for severe cases of the disease.
According to the Daily Mail, the drug in question is called ruxolitinib and is used to treat a potentially fatal auto-immune disease in children known Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). The medication essentially works by calming down the immune system and stopping it from going into overdrive.
Though the medication might be intended for children, scientists from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio have claimed that patients of any age who received ruxolitinib were 10 times more likely to have significant improvements in their respiratory symptoms.
The doctors first suggested a trial with the drug when they realized that one of the most severe complications of COVID-19 was known as a cytokine storm — which is also a symptom of HLH.
“I approached our research colleagues in Wuhan and explained our observations and recommended this drug be tested to quiet the cytokine storm in the multi-system inflammation in patients with severe COVID-19 disease,” explained Dr. Gang Huang, a cancer pathologist at the hospital.
“The disease was spreading very rapidly and many people were dying. We believed the existing clinical drug would help save lives. So, we worked to push it forward before there is an effective vaccine for everyone,” he continued.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the medication has proven itself to be incredibly effective in helping patients, particularly those with severe cases.
Ninety percent of those who received ruxolitinib showed clearer CT scans in just two weeks. In addition, patients who received the children’s drug were 86 percent less likely to die than those who did not.
“This is the first therapy we know of that appears to work effectively to quiet the cytokine storm… and there are no significant toxicities to patients who take the drug by two pills a day,” Huang concluded.
That said, though the results appear to be promising, experts are warning that further trials will be needed as the results are based only on one study conducted between February 9 and February 28 in Wuhan, China. The experiment consisted of 43 hospitalized patients in total; half were given the drug, while half were given a placebo.
Phase two of the trial — which is being conducted by Incyte and Novartis — has expanded the pool to 400 severely ill coronavirus patients. Health experts hope the results of the second phase will be released over the summer.
In the meantime, other medical bio-tech companies are still on the hunt for a vaccine for the coronavirus, which has claimed over 360,000 lives worldwide. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, the CEO of Moderna announced he believed a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year.