Inhaled drug shows promise in coronavirus treatment: study

A small study finds potential hope in the treatment of COVID 19.

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who received an inhaled form of interferon beta, a medicine often used in its injected form to treat diseases like multiple sclerosis, had a 79 percent lower risk of developing more debilitating symptoms that could lead to ventilation or death, according to study results announced Monday by the British company Synairgen.

Patients who received the drug, known as SNG001, were also twice as likely to recover compared to those receiving a placebo.

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“We are all delighted with the trial results.” Marsden says the results “showed that SNG001 greatly reduced the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients who progressed from ‘requiring oxygen’ to ‘requiring ventilation,'” the company’s CEO Richard Marsden said in a press release.

The double blind placebo controlled study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, also found patients who received the inhaled drug were twice as likely to return to regular daily activities without limitation and their average hospital stay was cut from 9 days to 6 days. The release also states patients had fewer complaints of breathlessness, a common symptom in those suffering from COVID-19. The study included 101 patients.

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One of the trial investigators, Tom Wilkinson, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Southampton, explained that interferon-beta “has huge potential as an inhaled drug to be able to restore  the lung’s immune response, enhancing protection, accelerating recovery and countering the impact of SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

Study investigators say SARS-COV-2 attacks the lung’s initial ability to fight off a virus. One of Synairgen’s Co-Founders, Stephen Holgate, a  Medical Research Council Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton says in the release “our inhaled treatment of giving high local concentrations of interferon beta, a  naturally occurring antiviral protein, restores the lung’s ability to neutralize the virus, or any mutation of the virus or co-infection with another respiratory virus such as influenza or RSV, as could be encountered in the winter if there is a resurgence of COVID-19.”

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“This assessment of SNG001 in COVID-19 patients could signal a major breakthrough in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Our efforts are now focused on working with the regulators and other key groups to progress this potential COVID-19 treatment as rapidly as possible,” Marsden said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were more than 3.8 million infections and at least 141,426 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States.