3 New Jersey hospitals participate in study to use HIV drug to treat COVID-19

As the nation waits for a COVID-19 vaccine, three New Jersey hospitals are helping an international drugmaker get medicine on the shelf that will treat the virus.
Unlike the COVID vaccine trials that work with healthy volunteers to prevent the virus, the research going on at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston is treating patients who already have the coronavirus.
“They are on oxygen or on a ventilator. So, if you have severe manifestations of COVID, we are investigating to see if this drug will improve symptoms, get off a ventilator and improve your breathing,” says Dr. Subroto Paul.
The drug is called Leronlimab. It was originally created to treat HIV and is produced by Washington state-based biotechnology company CytoDyn. The company’s CEO says that the drug is now being investigated to see if it can safely fight infection and reduce lung inflammation in critical COVID-19 cases.
“The patients using the emergency trial, they go off the mechanical ventilator and are able to walk out of the hospital – some of them,” says CytoDyn president and CEO Nader Pourhassen.
Paul says that for many people, Leronlimab can be just as vital as a vaccine.
“Even with a vaccine 99% effective, there’s 1% it’s not effective. And for those 1% of patients, we want to have options for them to get better quicker,” he says.
Atlantic Health in Morrison and Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck are also among the dozens of hospitals nationwide taking part in this trial. CytoDyn hopes to have the trial completed in a few weeks and to get emergency FDA authorization to distribute the treatment early next year.
Leronlimab is also being tested to treat 22 different cancers. Once it is on the market, it will be named Vyrologix.