People in Kern County diagnosed with COVID-19 who are managing the illness at home can participate in a clinical trial to test the efficacy of a common anti-inflammatory drug in reducing hospitalizations and death from the coronavirus.
The trial is taking place in several locations in Canada, France, Spain and the United States, and is being conducted locally through Centric Health.
Colchicine, the drug being studied, has been used for decades to treat gout and more recently has been found effective in treating inflammation in patients with heart problems. The clinical trial will determine if the drug's anti-inflammatory effect when given early on to a COVID-19 patient prevents the development of a cytokine storm, which is a severe immune response that leads to many of the COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths.
"The idea is if we can prevent that initial inflammatory response from ever developing, we can reduce hospitalizations and death," said Centric Health's Dr. William Baker, who is the local coordinator for the trial.
Dr. David Waters, professor emeritus of cardiology at UC San Francisco and assistant principal investigator for the study, cited children as examples of how controlling the inflammatory immune response brought on by COVID-19 in some patients may be a way to reduce poor patient outcomes.
"Children were relatively spared by the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918, and we see the same pattern with COVID-19. This may be because cytokine storm is less likely in children,” Waters said in a UC San Francisco news release.
The university was one of the first clinical sites in the United States for the trial. The study is being led by the Montreal Heart Institute and is funded by the National Institutes for Health, the Quebec government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Those eligible for the study must have tested positive for COVID-19 or received a doctor's diagnosis and be 40 or older with a high-risk condition such as obesity, uncontrolled high blood pressure (systolic blood pressure over 150), asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart failure, coronary artery disease or a fever over 101.1 degrees in the last 48 hours.
Importantly, patients must contact Centric Health within 24 hours of diagnosis or receiving a positive COVID-19 test result and treatment must begin within 48 hours, Baker said. The entire process is contactless. Enrollment and follow-up are done by phone and medication is delivered to the participant's residence.
Baker said Bakersfield was chosen as a site for the trial due to its high rate of cases in late July and early August.
He said the clinical trial is a way for physicians and patients to be active in advancing a possible treatment for COVID-19.
"The only treatment we have early in the disease is to go home, take plenty of fluids and hope," said Baker. "This gives us an opportunity to do something."