Israeli Data Shows Promising Early Evidence of Fenofibrate’s Ability to Prevent Lung Damage in Corona Patients

An oral drug generically known as fenofibrate and sold under the brand name Tricor has long been in the arsenal of cardiologists and family physicians to treat abnormal levels of lipids (fats) in the blood (a condition called hypertriglyceridemia).  


Now, an Israeli scientist, Prof. Yaakov Nahmias – who heads the Center for Bioengineering at Hebrew University of Jerusalem – has discovered in preliminary research that this medication from the fibrate class has the potential to significantly change how COVID-19 patients are being treated and the severity of the disease. gathered early clinical evidence demonstrating the efficacy of an existing drug in treating COVID-19. 


It also appears to be helpful in decreasing of the lower legs in type 2 diabetics. A few years ago, it was the 70th most-commonly prescribed medication in the US, with more than eleven million prescriptions. 


Nahmias and his team applied the well-established existing drug, which was patented back in 1969 and came into medical use six years later, to address the buildup of fats in human lung cells caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Initial lab-based results and new data from 1,500 Israel-based Coronavirus patients have been “extremely promising,” said Nahmias. Clinical studies are scheduled to begin this week at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, joining other clinical centers across the US, South America and Europe.  


The study began this past July when Nahmias showed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was inhibiting the effective breakdown of fat within the lungs.  His research then identified the efficacy of fenofibrate when applied to Coronavirus patients and suggested that it will also stop the progression of the pneumonia in COVID-19 patients. 


“We knew that the system we had developed for tissue dynamics provided us with a unique vantage point to understand how the virus operates in the lungs,” Nahmias explained.  After discovering the efficacy of the drug in the lab-setting, he and Prof. Oren Shiboleth of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Dr. Sigal Shafram-Tikva at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem gathered data from 1,500 Coronavirus patients who were on a regiment of drugs designed to reduce the fatty buildup in lung cells. 


The results were abundantly clear: Patients who were taking the drugs to speed up the breakdown of fats were recovering from the Coronavirus-caused lung infections in a matter of days. The evidence even showed that there was zero mortality among these patients.


“We showed that the human lungs responded to the SARS-CoV-2 virus by completely changing their metabolism, causing a major buildup of fats in lung cells.  Our findings show that this unhealthy fat buildup is a critical factor in COVID-19 patient’s deterioration. Patients taking fibrates that work directly to breakdown fats recovered fast from the disease, while those taking medications that build fats like thiazolidinediones, showed greater lung damage and mortality,” Nahmias asserted.


According to the research team, applying the use of this established drug, which is widely available, inexpensive and has a proven safety record, could alter the effects of COVID-19 from a devastating disease to a far more manageable form of a respiratory cold. 


In the coming days, the team will begin an investigator-led Phase 3a clinical study, with financial support from the Abbott pharmaceutical company. It will be conducted at Barzilai and led by Prof. Shlomo Ma’ayan, director of the department of infectious diseases. 


Other clinical studies intended to corroborate the Hebrew University team’s findings are also taking place in the US, Europe and South America.  “Even as we see the introduction of numerous vaccines intended to reduce the transmission of the disease and protect vulnerable populations, this drug can help the direct treatment of the virus and reduce its severity and mortality.  We hope to see the first results of the clinical phase of this study in the coming months,” Ma’ayan said.


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