COLUMBUS – The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is the first in the United States to participate in a clinical trial that aims to improve oxygen levels and treatment outcomes for COVID-19 patients who are on mechanical ventilation.
In the double-blind, placebo-controlled study, Ohio State researchers are assessing the efficacy and safety of inhaled epoprostenol via the VentaProst aerosol drug delivery system created by Aerogen Pharma. It generates and precisely delivers small, highly-respirable droplets of the medication in synchrony with patients’ breathing.
The system features a closed-circuit design that helps protect clinical staff from potential exposure to virus-contaminated patient exhalations.
Delivery of epoprostenol directly to the lungs may offer multiple benefits for COVID patients on mechanical ventilation, said Dr. Veronica Franco, study co-investigator and an assistant professor in The Ohio State University College of Medicine. The new drug delivery method combines the properties of a potent vasodilator (medication that opens up blood vessels), an anti-inflammatory mediator and an anti-clotting agent.
As a result, Franco said it has the potential to dilate the lung’s vessels to improve blood oxygenation and reduce strain on the heart, while reducing lung inflammation and microvascular coagulation commonly seen in patients with severe COVID-19 infection.
“Repurposing a therapy meant for patients with pulmonary vascular disease made a lot of sense given the propensity for COVID-19 to attack the blood vessels of the lung. It was a natural extension of our work in this area,” said Dr. Raymond Benza, principal investigator, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and Bob and Corrine Frick Chair for Heart Failure at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
Trial patients will receive up to 10 days of this treatment to see if it reduces respiratory and circulatory failure. Researchers will follow patients for four weeks to determine if the treatment reduces time on the ventilator, in the intensive care unit or in the hospital.