CETF Featured In "60 Minutes" Story On Repurposing Existing Drugs To Fight COVID
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Story highlights role in funding trials of promising drugs to battle virus that has claimed 500,000+ lives in U.S. How a 37-year-old antidepressant whipped COVID at California horseracing track
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SAN FRANCISCO, March 8, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The COVID Early Treatment Fund, a non-profit formed to finance clinical trials of repurposed drugs to help fight COVID, was featured on "60 Minutes." Sunday night in a segment that examined the early success of using a generic anti-depressant to treat patients inflicted with the virus.
The piece, by correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi, tells the story of how fluvoxamine – approved 37 years ago by the FDA to treat obsessive compulsive disorder and primarily to treat depression – came to be repurposed for use against COVID. After two small and successful trials in the United States, the drug is now being tested in a large randomized Phase 3 clinical trial in the U.S. and Canada. People can enroll in the fluvoxamine clinical trial if they are at least 30 years old and are within seven days of experiencing the first symptoms of COVID.
The journey begins in St. Louis in the spring of 2020, where Washington University psychiatrist Dr. Angela Reiersen was home recuperating from COVID symptoms. She was pondering how to help others when she remembered a study involving fluvoxamine.
Dr. Reiersen contacted one her colleagues, Dr. Eric Lenze, who specializes in finding new uses for already-approved drugs. Dr. Lenze obtained funding for a small, randomized clinical trial with the help of CETF.
The compelling trial results were published last November in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Of 152 patients, the 80 who received fluvoxamine saw no deterioration in their health; 8% of the patients who received a placebo saw their condition worsen.
As luck would have it, one of the doctors who read that report was Dr. David Seftel, an NIH researcher and staff physician at Golden Gate Fields, a horseracing track in Berkeley, Calif., whose workforce had been hit with an outbreak of COVID.
Dr. Seftel was impressed by the JAMA report because its methodology was strong. "This is something that I felt comfortable with taking to patients," Dr. Seftel told "60 Minutes." "In this particular circumstance, strong biochemistry, great initial clinical results, minimal downside. I felt I had to act."
He offered a prescription for fluvoxamine to newly diagnosed COVID patients at Golden Gate Fields and the results were similar to those of the trial at Washington University. Of the 77 track employees who elected to take fluvoxamine, none were hospitalized. Of the 48 who declined it, 12.5% wound up in a hospital and one died. Asked if the results could be a fluke, Dr. Seftel said: "I don't believe so. You cannot influence a virus that is as wily and as wicked as COVID with a fluke."
CETF has been a leader in the effort to quickly fund research looking for alternatives to battling COVID. It was formed in 2020 as a non-profit administered by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a 501c3 public charity, and has raised more than $5.5 million. Donors include Flu Lab, the Skoll Foundation, Steven and Michele Kirsch, RNP Foundation, Edward J. Daly Foundation, Elon Musk Foundation, David and Jan Baszucki, Corrigan Walla Foundation, Susanne and Bill Losch, East Creek Fund, Mule Family Foundation and the Melza & Frank Theodore Barr Foundation.
CETF's 12-member advisory board, an impressive group of doctors, medical researchers and professors from several of the nation's top medical schools, evaluated more than 60 research proposals before agreeing to fund 14 trials for existing drugs. The encouraging results of the fluvoxamine trials have convinced Kirsch, the CETF's founder, that the nation's drug-approval system, particularly during a pandemic, can be more efficient.
"With more than 60,000 new cases in the U.S. every day, there is no reason that all of the ongoing trials cannot be enrolled within the next two weeks and give us answers," Kirsch said. "Time is of the essence and lives are at stake."
Again, people can enroll in the fluvoxamine clinical trial if they are over 30 years old and are within seven days of experiencing the first symptoms of COVID.
To learn more about CETF click here.
SOURCE COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund
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