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Does heartburn medication help make Covid-19 milder?

Famotidine improves survival rates

In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, doctors in Wuhan noticed that many of the older patients who survived a relapse came from poorer demographics.

A review of the survivors' medical records revealed that a significant number suffered from chronic manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux, for which they took medications containing the active ingredient famotidine, while other patients, in whom no such relationship was observed, were treated with the more expensive drug – omeprazole.

Biomedical engineering professor Phil Bourne, founder and dean of the School of Statistics, explains how often almost anecdotally reported observations or casually mentioned connections in a specific research paper form the basis of important scientific research and subsequent discoveries.

“Usually, scientists develop prospective clinical trials to find out if a drug is effective in treating a particular medical condition or disease. But this method is expensive and can take years. When we face a global pandemic, it is helpful to study and other possibilities”, emphasizes Professor Born.

So, Professor Born and UVA Senior Research Fellow Cameron Mura set out to analyze information from a database containing the medical records of millions of Covid-19 patients living in 30 different countries. The team gradually reduced this number to about 22,000 people, which is the largest sample size to date for the study of famotidine and the disease in general.

When given in high doses, famotidine appears to improve the survival rates of patients with Covid-19, especially in combination with aspirin. In addition, the scientists found that the severity of disease progression was also inhibited, which in turn significantly reduced the chance of reaching the “point” from which the possibility of needing intubation was close to 100%.

“At certain stages of the infection process, the immune system may begin to attack healthy lung tissue in an attempt to completely eliminate the invading virus,” explains Dr. Mura out.

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