COLD SPRING HARBOR, NY — Famotidine, the heartburn drug known as Pepcid, has been shown to reduce coronavirus symptoms and body inflammation, according to a study by Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
Results of the fully virtual, randomized clinical trial were published on BMJ Journals.
The findings, made up of nearly two-thirds of diverse patients, support the generic drug’s safety and potential benefits to help patients recover from COVID-19 within days, according to the two institutions that performed the study.
"We found that famotidine is safe at the higher doses used and see molecular and clinical evidence that it improves the recovery of symptomatic patients of diverse ancestries diagnosed with COVID-19," said Tobias Janowitz, MD, PhD, principal investigator of the trial, assistant professor at CSHL and adjunct professor at the Feinstein Institutes. "We closely monitored patients in this fully remote clinical trial while protecting their safety and that of health care providers in pandemic conditions. We hope that the data we are sharing with this study guide future trials that are necessary to confirm famotidine as a treatment for patients with COVID-19."
The study, according to the institutions:
Launched in January 2021 with a focus on reaching diverse patient populations.
55 non-vaccinated patients were analyzed. They were either given a placebo or 240mg/day of famotidine (that’s six times the amount than off the shelf).
16 symptoms monitored via iPad + lab blood drawn at home to study inflammatory protein levels & COVID-19 positivity.
Results: Patients on famotidine experienced better resolution of 14 out of 16 assessed symptoms, including smell and taste, breathing, and abdominal pain.
50 percent symptom resolution was 8.2 days for the famotidine and 11.4 days for the placebo groups.
90 percent symptom resolution was 27.1 days for the famotidine and 37.7 days for the placebo group.
People with COVID-19 often get sick because the body’s inflammatory response to the virus gets overactivated, according to the researchers. Previous studies have shown famotidine turns inflammation down by blocking a specific molecular pathway. This trial confirmed that famotidine leads to resolving inflammation in COVID-19 patients and also alleviates symptoms of the disease. Patients still achieve immunity against the coronavirus.
"Because famotidine does not target the virus directly like vaccines or antiviral medications, it may be a promising potential treatment for patients with COVID-19 and emergent viral variants," the researchers said.
Adult COVID-19 positive patients with mild to moderate symptoms were sent a cellular-activated Apple iPad, along with a Bluetooth-enabled scale, thermometer, fitness tracker, spirometer to study airflow in and out of the lungs, and a pulse oximeter to measure blood oxygen levels. Nearly two-thirds of patients enrolled were from Black, mixed-race, or Hispanic communities.
Participants orally took either a placebo or famotidine at 80 mg three times per day for up to 14 days. Of the 55 non-vaccinated participants, 28 received the placebo while 27 received Pepcid.
Northwell’s Home Lab program was used for required blood draws and COVID-19 diagnostic nasal swabs tests. Participants who took famotidine experienced quicker resolution of inflammation in the body, according to blood work results, and the patients tolerated the higher dosage of medication very well, according to the study.
The trial was supported by statisticians from Stony Brook University and funded in part by the Pershing Square Foundation and by a FastGrant from Emergent Ventures.