Cholesterol-lowering drug being tested at Penn Medicine to help fight COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA -- Can a drug used to treat high cholesterol also treat COVID-19? It's a question researchers at Penn Medicine, in Philadelphia, are trying to answer.

Two different studies in laboratories found the drug Fenofibrate reduced COVID-19 infection by up to 70%. Doctors say if this works in actual patients, it could have a major impact by helping to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.

Cardiologist Dr. Julio Chirinos is leading the trial at Penn Medicine, testing to see if the drug commonly known as Tricor can help patients battling COVID-19. Lab studies show it blocks the virus's ability to bind to cells and replicate, which means it could prevent an infection from getting worse and spreading.

Chirinos says the research is promising, but still very early.

"If it's highly effective, it could have a major impact. We certainly hope so, but we don't have that information yet," he said.

It would have a major impact because the drug is easy to take. It's a cheap and widely available oral medication used to help lower cholesterol and fatty acids in the blood.

Chirinos says efforts to get more people vaccinated must continue, but we also need more treatments if unvaccinated people are infected or for breakthrough cases, He says we also need a backup plan.

"We also should have a plan in case certain strains of the virus become resistant to the vaccine, it's possible that will happen in the future," he said.

As for if you already take this drug, Chirinos says don't assume it will protect you - that still has to be proven. Patients should continue taking the medication as prescribed and practice precautions.

"Standard protection measures and vaccinations should be embraced and implemented even if you are taking this medication," he said.

He is hoping to have results from the trial in several months, but first, they're trying to enroll about 700 people at several sites worldwide. The trial is for adults 18 and older, within two weeks of symptoms and a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis.

For more information or to find out if you can enroll, visit: Penn Medicine Clinical Trial of Fenofibrate Therapy in Patients with COVID-19

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