CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A recent clinical trial from EVA Health has found evidence that a drug used to treat asthma and eczema could improve a COVID-19 patient’s survival rate.

In the randomized trial, it was found that with the assistance of the monoclonal antibody, dupilumab, also known as Dupixent, almost 90% of patients were alive at 60 days, compared with 76.2% of patients who received a placebo instead. 

The trial was designed and led by a member of the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, Jennifer Sasson, MD.

“Our clinical trial suggests that treatment with the anti-allergy medicine dupilumab may decrease deaths due to COVID-19. UVA is the first to test this novel and promising approach to COVID-19 treatment, which also proved safe in this small study – as we had expected, as dupilumab has proven safe and effective as an allergy medicine,” said Sasson. “A large multi-institution study to validate these preliminary results is being designed. If successful, this multi-site trial will open a new window to treatment of COVID-19 and potentially other viral pneumonias.”

Dupilumab works by blocking the effects of interleukin-13, a driver of inflammation in the body. The drug was originally approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration to treat moderate to severe eczema in 2017, but is now also used to treat asthma and chronic sinus inflammation.

The clinical trial was launched after it was discovered that patients with COVID-19 were “at significantly greater risk of needing a ventilator if their blood contained high levels of interleukin-13.” 40 patients with moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 were enrolled by Sasson and her collaborators in a double-blinded trial, so neither the patients nor the doctors knew whether the patient was receiving dupilumab or a placebo.

After 60 days, two deaths were recorded among the patients receiving dupilumab while five deaths were recorded among those receiving the placebo. Among those who were not in the intensive care unit (ICU) when the trial began, three patients receiving dupilumab were ultimately admitted to the ICU, while six of those receiving the placebo were admitted.

“We are indebted to the patients at UVA who consented to participate in this study, without even knowing if they would receive the medicine or placebo, as they are the ones who have advanced our understanding of the pandemic,” Sasson said. 

The findings have been published in the scientific journal Open Forum of Infectious Diseases. The research team consisted of Sasson, Alexandra N. Donlan, Jennie Z. Ma, Heather M. Haughey, Rachael Coleman, Uma Nayak, Amy J. Mathers, Sylvain Laverdure, Robin Dewar, Patrick Jackson, Scott K. Heysell, Jeffrey M. Sturek and William A. Petri Jr.