Popular heartburn medicine Pepcid being used in new coronavirus drug trial with anti-malaria drug

NEW YORK -- Over the past few weeks researchers have been studying a new potential treatment for COVID-19 and it might not be what many people expect.

Researchers at Northwell Health have been enrolling patients into their study of famotidin, the active ingredient in Pepcid, an over-the-counter medication commonly used to alleviate heartburn.

Since March 13, the drug has been being delivered through an IV in megadoses nine times greater than the typical over-the-counter dose to patients in the trial.

The drug is being given in combination with the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine.

Researchers say some data on safety will be available in a few weeks.

Dr. Kevin Tracey, CEO and president of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health, told ABC News the idea to try famotidine came from a friend and colleague, Dr. Michael Callahan, who had recently visited China and was working with Chinese physicians on a still-unpublished study reportedly showing that the drug benefited patients with COVID-19.

Dr. Stuart Ray, professor of medicine in infectious diseases and vice chair of medicine for data integrity and analytics at Johns Hopkins, told ABC News he was surprised to hear that researchers at Northwell are studying famotidine in people with COVID-19, and that he is skeptical about preliminary data from China because it has not been vetted in the typical review process.
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