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A New Hope for Severe COVID-19

Drugmaker Veru said that an experimental drug cut the death rate of critically ill COVID-19 patients by half in a late-stage clinical trial, the New York Times reported on Monday.

The oral drug, called sabizabulin, works by disrupting the transport of the coronavirus through microtubules in cells and by interfering with the body's cytokine responses. In the study, about half of the 52 trial participants given a placebo along with regular care died within 60 days, but the death rate was just 20 percent among the 98 patients who received sabizabulin, the Times reports.

While the trial data have not been peer-reviewed or published in the literature, they were compelling enough that independent safety monitors recommended stopping the study early. Veru CEO Mitchell Steiner said that the company intends to submit the drug to the US Food and Drug Administration for Emergency Use Authorization, according to the Times.

Still, the data are preliminary and additional analyses are underway, including examining the proportion of treated patients without respiratory failure, the number of days they spent in intensive care, the length of their hospital stay, and how long they were on mechanical ventilation.

"No drug works for everybody," Michael Gordon, one of the trial investigators, told the Times. "The benefit that was seen is mortality — who is living and who is dying — not who is getting off oxygen, though I anticipate we will see improvement in other parameters, too."

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