A widely available and inexpensive drug that is used to ease the symptoms of indigestion may prove a worthy contender for treating COVID-19 infection in those whose disease doesn’t require admission to hospital, suggest the findings of a small case series, published online in the journal Gut.

The effects were felt within 24 to 48 hours of taking famotidine, and a rigorous clinical trial is now warranted to see if the drug could be an effective treatment for COVID-19, say the researchers.

Famotidine (Pepcid AC) belongs to a class of drugs known as histamine-2 receptor antagonists, which reduce the amount of stomach acid produced. Famotidine can be taken in doses of 20-160 mg, up to four times a day, for the treatment of acid reflux and heartburn.

The researchers report on 10 people (6 men; 4 women) who developed COVID-19 infection, all of whom happened to have been taking famotidine during their illness.

The severity of five cardinal symptoms–cough; shortness of breath; fatigue; headache and loss of taste/smell as well as general unwellness–was measured using a version of a 4-point scale normally applied to assess the severity of cancer symptoms (ECOG PS).

Seven of the patients tested positive for COVID-19, using a swab test; two had antibodies to the infection; and one patient wasn’t tested but was diagnosed with the infection by a doctor.

Their ages ranged from 23 to 71 and they had a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds and known risk factors for COVID-19 severity, including high blood pressure and obesity.

All started taking famotidine when they were feeling very poorly with COVID-19, the symptoms of which had been going on from 2 up to 26 days at that point.

The most frequently used dose was 80 mg taken three times a day, with the average treatment period lasting 11 days, but ranging from 5 to 21 days.

All 10 patients said that symptoms quickly improved within 24-48 hours of starting famotidine and had mostly cleared up after 14 days.

Image Credit:  The image is in the public domain.

Thanks to Heinz V. Hoenen.  Follow him on twitter: @HeinzVHoenen

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