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Ascension St. John Running Clinical Trial of Treatment for Lung Damage from COVID-19

Ascension St. John

Ascension St. John is running Oklahoma’s first clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment.

They’ll be giving people the rheumatoid arthritis drug sarimulab intravenously to see whether it’s effective at reducing the lung inflammation the coronavirus triggers in some patients.

"That is the part of the disease that you really want to treat because that is the part that starts off the process of people getting very ill," said primary investigator Dr. Anuj Malik.

A similar drug showed promise in limited use in China. If sarilumab proves effective, the next step will be fast-track approval by the Food and Drug Administration for the drug to be used nationwide as an important tool for severely to critically ill patients.

"Hopefully, reduce the number of patients requiring intensive care as well as a respirator or mechanical ventilator to help them breathe and so forth," Malik said.

Malik believes they can get 100 people in the trial in Tulsa in 50 to 60 days at the current rate of enrollment. Tulsa is one of four sites in the U.S. trying to enroll 100 people in the double-blind clinical trial.

Patients must be hospitalized and severely to critically ill from COVID-19 to participate.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.