From hydroxychloroquine to just straight sunlight, the number of alleged coronavirus cures being tested continue to skyrocket. Now, another possible new treatment is joining the fold after being tested on 187 coronavirus patients in New York — and it's a quite unexpected one. Doctors are using famotidine, found in the common and widely-used heartburn medication Pepcid, as a possible new treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.
Since mid-March, coronavirus-positive patients at Northwell Health hospitals throughout New York have been prescribed famotidine in an attempt to figure out if the drug actually contributes to their recovery. The discovery of famotidine’s possible effects on the virus were first discovered in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus originated; there, patients who could only afford the antacid were recovering quicker than those who used more expensive methods of treatment.
As an active ingredient in Pepcid — an over-the-counter antacid — famotidine is easily accessible and affordable for those who need it, meaning that the testing of the drug on coronavirus patients has been kept quiet to avoid products flying off the shelves.
According to reports, 187 Northwell Health patients testing out famotidine for their recovery are being given large amounts of the ingredient: nine times more than what is available at the local pharmacy. Those being given famotidine are using it in conjunction with hydroxychloroquine; some are being given hydroxychloroquine alone.
The discovery of famotidine’s possible aid in coronavirus recovery stemmed from research done by Dr. Michael Callahan, who is an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Callahan and some colleagues of his in China discovered the ingestion of famotidine among residents who couldn’t afford more expensive methods of treatment. A study is planned for the testing of famotidine is planned, but remains unpublished.
While famotidine is still being tested on infected patients, Dr. Kevin Tracey, who is the president of Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, has stated that results of the trial, now in its sixth week, could be released in the next few weeks. Dr. Tracey also noted to CNN that, like hydroxychloroquine, no one knows for sure whether or not famotidine will work as a cure for the coronavirus, which is why testing it is necessary.
“We don't know if it has any benefit,” he said. “We really don't. People are hoping for anything. But we need to do this clinical trial.”
He also drove home the importance of people not just going to the pharmacy and stockpiling tons of Pepcid, stating that “You should not go to the drugstore and take a bunch of heartburn medicine" because the patients testing famotidine are doing in high doses in a medical environment under the watchful eyes of healthcare professionals.