Researchers at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak have received approval to launch a clinical trial to determine whether two common drugs — naltrexone and ketamine — are an effective treatment for COVID-19.
The randomized trial will involve adult patients hospitalized at Beaumont in Royal Oak. Researchers are hoping the two drugs, taken together, will lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms in patients in the early and late stages of the virus.
“There is an urgent need to develop new treatments for COVID-19 using easily available and affordable medications,” Dr. Matthew Sims, director of infectious disease research at Beaumont and the study’s principal investigator, says in a news release. “Ideal new treatments for COVID-19 would help halt the progression of the disease in patients with mild cases prior to the need for ventilators, and provide a rescue treatment for patients with severe cases of the virus.”
Low doses of naltrexone have been used to treat pain and inflammation in multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, and other pain conditions. Ketamine is an anesthetic drug that has shown anti-inflammatory effects.
The United States Food and Drug Administration’s Investigational New Drug program gave Beaumont the green light to start the clinical trial, which has already begun enrolling patients.
“We need a two-pronged strategy to combat COVID-19,” Dr. Annas Aljassem, the study’s co-investigator, says. “Low doses of naltrexone, a drug approved for treating alcoholism and opiate addiction, as well as ketamine, a drug approved as an anesthetic, may be able to interrupt the inflammation that causes the worst COVID-19 symptoms.”
"The drugs have the potential to save lives,” Sims says.
“The addition of these two medications, as immunomodulators, to the treatment regimen of patients with COVID-19 has potential to decrease the severity of this disease by reducing the autoimmune, hyperinflammatory stages of the virus which is destructive to normal tissue and, when unchecked, rapidly leads to death,” Sims says.
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