Could OTC Heartburn Drug Help Fight COVID-19?

Everyone is looking for COVID-19 answers. The public needs to be protected, and doctors need more tools to help the people in hospitals and at home who are ill but not ill enough to be hospitalized. That’s why a new study released gives us hope. Pepcid may help ease the symptoms of COVID-19. Yes, the over-the-counter drug many Americans find themselves reaching for after a big meal may be a tool to help treat the coronavirus.

Famotidine, which is sold under the name Pepcid, was used in 10 patients who had mild enough symptoms to stay home. They started to feel better after a day or two of taking the drug.

A clinical trial is now needed to formally test if famotidine works against COVID-19,” said lead researcher Dr. Tobias Janowitz, a medical oncologist with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

With only 10 participants, it is not a “sure-thing.” More research is needed before claiming it as a win. “This is a very small study that was observational in nature,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It is very hard to draw any conclusions from it.” A clinical trial has started at

A clinical trial would give some patients the Pepcid and others a placebo to see if it is effective or if it was just that people got better. Older people in China who were taking Pepcid were more likely to survive than those who weren’t taking heartburn medication or those taking the more expensive Prilosec. They died at half the rate of other people. Overall, their symptoms were less severe. That made American researchers interested in looking into it.

Researchers believe that Pepcid may bind to an enzyme that COVID-19 needs to replicate itself. But, the researchers hastened to add, “it’s not clear how famotidine might work: if it might incapacitate the virus in some way or alter a person’s immune response to it.”

Pepcid would be an inexpensive way to help people and has already been proven to be safe. That makes a big difference in countries without robust healthcare. “The nice thing about this is it’s easily available, rapidly scalable,” said gastroenterologist Dr. Reed Hogan II. “So, this could be used in third world countries, in impoverished nations as a quick rapid approach to try to lessen the morbidity and mortality.”

We wouldn’t suggest running out to stock up on Pepcid, no conclusions can be drawn. However, we are excited to hear the results of the clinical trial. We are hopeful that, while we wait on a vaccine, this could help patients get well and buy scientists some time to search for vaccines and other treatment options.
June 11, 2020
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