Lipid-lowering drug can get COVID patients off ventilators, say Israeli reseachers

“Fenofibrate is far safer than other drugs proposed to date, and its mechanism of action makes it less likely to be variant-specific,” said Professor Yaakov Nachamias.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A commonly prescribed lipid-lowering drug may significantly improve outcomes for hospitalized COVID patients, according to a new study from Israeli researchers who say the treatment has proven to be very promising in initial testing.

Last year, a team of scientists from Hebrew University, led by Professor Yaakov Nachamias, discovered that seriously ill COVID patients often suffer from an extreme build-up of lipids in the body, especially in the lungs. This serious inflammation can turn deadly, especially for older patients.

The researchers found that the generic drug fenofibrate, which was originally approved by the FDA in 1975 and costs just $1.50 a day, can significantly lower lipids stored in the body, including in the lungs.

In a small-scale study carried out at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, 14 out of 15 hospitalized COVID patients no longer needed supplemental oxygen after one week of taking fenofibrate.

The 14 patients were also released from the medical center within the week, dramatically shortening the time that they needed to spend in the hospital.

“In general, patients who do not require oxygen can be treated at home,” Nachamias told the Jerusalem Post. “Additionally…the majority of severely sick patients survive.”

“If you look over a 28-day period, I would have expected all of them to survive with or without the drug,” he said.

“The question is how fast we can get them home or how quickly we can get a severe patient to a mild condition.”

All of the patients had pneumonia and multiple comorbidities, including obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Nachamias noted that just 30 percent of patients in similar condition are able to stop using supplemental oxygen within a week.

“There are no silver bullets,” he told the Post, “but fenofibrate is far safer than other drugs proposed to date, and its mechanism of action makes it less likely to be variant-specific.”

Fenofibrate is currently being tested on a wider scale in double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase III clinical trials in Israel, the U.S, and South America.