Fat-Lowering Drug Lowers Covid Symptoms in Trial

YERUSHALAYIM -
Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Yerushalayim. (Grauesel)

A research team from Hebrew University claimed on Monday that a cheap, commonly available fat-lowering drug has performed impressively against the coronavirus, The Times of Israel reported.

Inflammation levels “fell like a rock” after patients were given fenofibrate, a generic fat-lowering medication, in a small clinical trial, the researchers said.

Fenofibrate, widely used in the U.S., was given to 15 serious COVID-19 patients at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, all of whom were receiving oxygen. All were discharged from the hospital during the course of the 10-day trial.

“We saw that it works,” Prof. Yaakov Nahmias of Hebrew U. told ToI. “This is very promising, and it’s exciting as this is a very cheap generic drug with minimal side effects.”

The medication costs a mere $1.50 a day.

Nahmias stressed that further research must be carried out to justify reaching conclusions, but said there is reason to be optimistic.

The trial at Barzalai went even better than expected. He expected just 28.5% of patients to come off oxygen in under seven days. Instead, 93% — all but one patient — in his trial came off oxygen during the period.

“We monitored patients very closely, taking samples every two days, and we tracked inflammation, which dropped like a rock, and immune responses,” said Nahmias. “Both gave cause for optimism.”

The idea behind the trial was that much of the damage caused by the novel coronavirus is due to causing lipids to be deposited in the lungs. Fenofibrate, they hypothesized, could break down the lipids and help patients.

The study, which has been published online but not yet peer reviewed, was conducted independently.

Although it was done before the Delta variant hit Israel, Prof. Nahmias said he was confident that it would work on different variants.