NIH to Study Three Drugs in Treatment of Covid-19 Patients

The National Institutes of Health will study the three medicines in the U.S. and Latin America in a trial expected to last up to eight months.


J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

WASHINGTON—The National Institutes of Health is launching a late-stage clinical trial to determine whether three drugs used for controlling immune systems could be used to treat respiratory distress and organ failure in severely ill Covid-19 patients.

The NIH study will evaluate two drugs already on the market,

Johnson & Johnson’s

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Remicade and

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

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’s Orencia, along with an investigational drug called CVC from AbbVie Inc.

The study will evaluate whether any of the medicines, known as immune modulators, can control an overreaction of the patient’s systemic Covid-19 inflammatory response.

This phenomenon, known as a “cytokine storm” for the proteins that trigger the inflammation, can lead to respiratory distress, multiple organ failure and other severe reactions in hospitalized patients. Cytokines are part of the body’s normal immune reaction, but one that in this instance has gone haywire.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Orencia is one of three immune-system medicines the NIH is set to study.


Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

The study, at sites in the U.S. and Latin America, is expected to last up to eight months and will enroll about 2,100 patients. All of the patients will receive the standard-treatment antiviral drug remdesivir.

Some will also get a placebo, while others will also get one of the drugs being studied. The study will evaluate whether the study drugs lower severity of disease, recovery time, death rate and use of hospital resources.

A growing number of hospitals are investigating antibody testing and blood plasma therapy as a way to combat the new coronavirus in sick patients. WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez explains. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

Write to Thomas M. Burton at [email protected]

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