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Covid-19 (Coronavirus): For information related to COVID-19, visit vcuhealth.org/covid-19. For information specific to children and families, visit Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

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Clinical trials underway on arthritis drug to treat COVID-19-related pneumonia

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Sarilumab may offer relief for lung inflammation  

VCU researchers have joined a growing study to test a drug developed to treat rheumatoid arthritis on critically ill coronavirus patients.

Sarilumab works to block interleukin-6, which signals the body’s immune system to create the excess inflammation seen in those with rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors hope it will do the same for patients whose severe COVID-19 has led to uncontrolled inflammation in the lungs.

“Finding interventions that treat COVID-19, a disease without any approved treatment, and its additional symptoms has been a challenge facing researchers globally,” said Marjolein de Wit, M.D., the study’s principal investigator and a pulmonary and critical care physician at VCU Health. “These clinical trials are intended to evaluate whether this drug is safe and effective against hyper-inflammation in pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome related to COVID-19.”

Researchers work to bring study to Richmond

The clinical trial to test sarilumab, currently underway at more than 60 sites, has nine patients enrolled at VCU. Many of the trial sites are in New York and New Jersey, where the drug’s sponsors, Regeneron and Sanofi, are based, but VCU researchers worked to bring the trial to Richmond. 

Participants must have difficulty breathing

To qualify for the sarilumab study, patients must be hospitalized in the intensive care unit with severe COVID-19 and pneumonia and must require the help of ventilators or other high-flow oxygen support. 

Results from the sarilumab study are expected in June.