Stanford researchers to start clinical trial of COVID-19 drug in pill form

Stanford researchers are hopeful soon-to-start clinical trials will result in a drug in pill form that will lessen the effects of COVID-19 on patients.

“We’re studying to see if it prevents you from becoming more sick. And try to avoid hospitalization and getting better faster,” said Dr. Aruna Subramanian, a clinical professor of infectious diseases at Stanford University.

Subramanian is part of the research team poised to start clinical trials July 6. Favipiravir, an anti-viral medicine in pill form, is taken at the onset of mild COVID symptoms. The drug is made by Fuji Pharma, and approved for use in China, India, and Russia to combat COVID-19.

In the forthcoming trials, 120 patients will be given either Favipiravir or a placebo to test the drugs effectiveness.

“It prevents the virus from making more copies of itself. So that’s what we’re studying. We don’t know yet, but we hope it’ll reduce the amount of virus people have in their respiratory track and thus reduce the amount of transmission,” said Dr. Subramanian.

Earlier this week, the maker of Remdesivir announced clinical trials are underway on a spray form of that drug that would be inhaled. Currently, Remdesivir is administered intravenously.

Some doctors say any step toward removing the need for hospitalization, and that eases how a drug is administered, is a win.

“I think not only will it make our job easier, but our end-point is to help our patients. And it’s to help our communities. And it’s to help decrease that spread. So it’s gonna make all our lives a lot easier,” said Dr. Runjhun Misra, an internal medicine specialist. Added Dr. Subramanian, “I think this really would be a game-changer. If we could have oral pills that people could just swallow, as an outpatient, that’ll be huge for COVID-19.”

The trials begin Monday. Once researchers have 60 participants, they’ll start tracking the results. If successful, the next phase would be seeing if Favipiravir can work as a preventative agent to contracting the cornoavirus.