AdventHealth sees promise in repurposed drugs to treat the most severe cases of COVID-19

A woman analyzing a test sample.

Fla., ORLANDO, Fla., April 16, 2020— As physicians face rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, they’re trying innovative new solutions — such as repurposing existing drugs to target the deadly virus.

At AdventHealth, two such treatments are now being deployed to treat the most seriously ill COVID patients: remdesivir and sarilumab. To receive these medications, patients must be in the intensive care unit and receiving oxygen support.

Given the urgency of the COVID-19 outbreak, the FDA is allowing hospitals to deploy the drugs outside of their officially approved uses. Remdesivir was originally developed to treat the Ebola virus; sarilumab is a treatment for moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that is designed to inhibit virus reproduction. Physicians are seeking to learn if remdesivir’s effects will extend to coronavirus patients too.

AdventHealth, along with leading medical institutions across the country, is administering sarilumab as part of a clinical trial to determine its effectiveness against COVID-19. Its normal function is to reduce inflammation in joints, so the hope is it will have a similar benefit in reducing the inflammatory response in the lungs of severely ill COVID patients.

“It’s very exciting that we are able to offer this trial to patients and determine what the best treatment is going to be for others with this condition,” said Dr. Amay Parikh, site principal investigator for the trial and medical director of the Neuro ICU at AdventHealth Orlando. “Having patients participate is going to help a lot more people across the nation.”

More than 30 patients have been enrolled in the sarilumab trial to date, and more are being sought nationwide.

The remdesivir and sarilumab treatments are part of a broad effort to bring innovative solutions to the fight against COVID-19. AdventHealth has launched a program to collect plasma of patients who’ve recovered from the disease to help those still struggling with the disease.