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Study Shows Potential Of Heartburn Drug Against COVID-19
According to an observational study conducted at Columbia University's Irving Medical Center in the United States, a common medication for heartburn could help with COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
A new study showed that COVID-19 patients who received famotidine, a popular heartburn medication, were at twice the risk of mortality and intubation than those who did not.
No premature conclusions
"Our results are convincing given the poor clinical outcomes associated with severe COVID-19 disease, but it would be premature to conclude that famotidine has a protective effect," said study leader Daniel Freedberg, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University in a message.
He added that while the analysis found a link between famotidine and improved results, there could also be unknown factors that could have affected it.
"Whether famotidine is effective as a treatment for patients with COVID-19 is an open question and must be examined in a randomized clinical trial," said the expert.
The study results were published in the journal "Gastroenterology".
Earlier data from China indicated better treatment outcomes
Famotidine is often used to treat heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
The new study was inspired by previous studies of famotidine for the treatment of COVID-19. Unpublished data from Wuhan (China) showed better results in COVID-19 sufferers who took famotidine in the hospital.
A computer-aided chemical study with famotidine indicated that the drug may bind to part of the virus and prevent its reproduction in cells.
"These reports prompted us to examine the data from our own facility to determine whether there was a link between famotidine use and results in COVID-19 patients in the hospital," said Columbia University study author Julian Abrams.
Lower mortality and intubation risk
The study examined the health records of 1,620 adults who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and who did not need intensive care at the time of admission. Around five percent (84) received famotidine.
"In most cases, the reason why famotidine was prescribed in the hospital was not documented in the medical records," said Abrams, "but we suspect the drug was most likely prescribed to treat heartburn."
The researchers found that patients who received famotidine were at twice the risk of intubation or death than those who did not.
They also found that ten percent of COVID-19 patients who received famotidine were connected to a ventilator or died, compared to 22 percent of patients who did not receive famotidine.
The study also looked at patients who were given proton pump inhibitors, another type of drug that also reduces stomach acid.
The scientists found that these drugs were not associated with improved results, suggesting that an effect of famotidine on COVID-19 results was not related to gastric acid suppression.
Take medication only after consulting a doctor
While the current study shows that famotidine is associated with better results, only randomized, controlled clinical trials can determine whether famotidine is really effective.
"We do not know whether taking famotidine is useful for COVID-19 and we strongly recommend that you consult your doctor beforehand," said Freedberg.
"Although famotidine is generally considered to be very safe, no prescribed or over-the-counter medication is without potential drawbacks." (Ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Columbia University Irving Medical Center: Heartburn Drug May Have Potential Against COVID-19, (accessed: June 15, 2020), Columbia University Irving Medical Center
- Daniel E. Freedberg, MD, MS, Joseph Conigliaro, MD, MPH, Timothy C. Wang, MD, Kevin J. Tracey, MD, Michael V. Callahan, MD, Julian A. Abrams, MD, MS, on behalf of the Famotidine Research Group Famotidine Research Group, Magdalena E. Sobieszczyk, MD, MPH, David D. Markowitz, MD, Aakriti Gupta, MD, MS, Max R. O'Donnell, MD, MPH, Jianhua Li, MD, David A. Tuveson , MD, PhD, Zhezhen Jin, PhD, William C. Turner, MD, Donald W. Landry, MD, PhD: Famotidine Use is Associated with Improved Clinical Outcomes in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients: A Propensity Score Matched Retrospective Cohort Study; in: Gastroenterology, (published: May 14, 2020), Gastroenterology