Cheap drug proves useful in critical Covid patients say Spanish researchers

by Lorraine Williamson
cheap drug could mean less time in ICU

MADRID – Researchers from Spain’s National Centre for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) see a cheap drug costing less than €2 as a “promising intervention that could improve the prognosis of severely ill Covid-19 patients.” 

Experts described the efficacy of metoprolol in critically ill patients with COVID-19. Metoprolol is a so-called beta-blocker, a drug traditionally used for serious diseases of the cardiovascular system. The newspaper El Diario writes that the results of the study have been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC). 

The most serious manifestation of the coronavirus is severe respiratory failure that requires intubation and is associated with high mortality. SARS-CoV-2 lung infection can even lead to the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). And as such neutrophil inflammation or hyperactivation plays a central role. Although, at present, there is a lack of therapies to treat this syndrome. 

However, the team, led by Borja Ibáñez, recently discovered metoprolol has a highly selective effect on the hyper-activated neutrophils under conditions of acute stress, such as a myocardial infarction. Because of the central role of neutrophils in ARDS, the group speculated this drug could be used as a therapy. Particularly in cases of severe COVID-19. 

Pilot study 

Therefore, they started a pilot study together with the Hospital Fundación Jiménez Díaz. They studied the effect of intravenous treatment with metoprolol on pneumonia infiltrate and respiratory function in critically ill and recently intubated patients due to ARDS. 

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Fewer days of ventilation needed 

The results show that treatment with intravenous metoprolol for three days “significantly reduced neutrophil infiltration into the lungs and improved patients’ oxygenation,” emphasises Eduardo Oliver, co-investigator. “We’ve seen a clear trend: patients who received this drug needed fewer days of ventilation. And therefore fewer days of ICU admission,” said Arnoldo Santos, ICU physician and co-author of the study. 

With caution 

However, Ibáñez says caution should be exercised as this is an initial pilot study. Therefore, the results should be contrasted with more data. Still, there is optimism because the researchers have observed that metoprolol treatment is safe in this clinical context. 

Available and cheap drug

The researchers also emphasise it is a safe, inexpensive drug. Daily treatment costs less than €2. And it is available, which can optimise results in severe coronavirus. 

“While it is a pilot and the results need to be confirmed in a larger study, its high safety, availability and robust biological effect may be sufficient to assess its use in young patients with severe COVID-19 in the ICU. are included,” said Valentín Fuster, director-general of the CNIC and co-investigator of this work. 

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