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Sacred Heart taking part in coronavirus study for experimental drug remdesivir

Coronavirus patients have been rushing to join the remdesivir studies that opened in hospitals in the last few weeks.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane is one of several hospitals within the Providence Health system taking part in clinical trials related to a treatment for the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Providence spokesperson Jennifer Semenza said she had limited information to share about the clinical trial due to the study's guidelines. She did tell KREM that the trials at Sacred Heart are under the direction of Dr. Henry Arguinchona. 

Coronavirus patients around the world have been rushing to join the remdesivir studies that opened in hospitals in the last few weeks.

Remdesivir is an experimental drug that’s shown promise against some other coronaviruses.

Interest has been so great that the U.S. National Institutes of Health is expanding its study, which has nearly reached its initial goal of 440 patients.  

The drug’s maker, California-based Gilead Sciences, is quickly ramping up its own studies, too. 

RELATED: Coronavirus patients rush to join studies for experimental drug remdesivir

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but sometimes pneumonia requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems.

Remdesivir is given through an IV. It’s designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material.

In animal tests against SARS and MERS, diseases caused by similar coronaviruses, the drug helped prevent infection and reduced the severity of symptoms when given early enough in the course of illness. It’s farther along in testing than many other potential therapies and the current studies could lead to regulatory approval.

Gilead has given remdesivir to more than 1,700 patients on a case-by-case emergency basis, but more people ultimately will be helped if the company does the needed studies to prove safety and effectiveness, chief executive Dan O’Day wrote in a recent letter to the public.

In another letter on Saturday, O'Day said the company has 1.5 million doses, which could mean more than 140,000 treatment courses, depending on how long treatment needs to last. The company is providing the drug for free for now and has set a goal of making 500,000 treatment courses by October and more than a million by the end of the year.

Gilead supplied remdesivir for two studies in China expected to give results by the end of the month. It also launched two studies for hospitalized patients in the U.S., Asia, Europe and elsewhere. One in severely ill patients tests five versus 10 days of treatment. Another in moderately sick patients compares those two options to standard care alone.

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In February, four patients who tested positive for COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus, were transferred to Spokane’s Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services chose Sacred Heart because of its “secured airborne infection isolation rooms," health officials said.

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