LONG ISLAND, N.Y. — There may soon be a new treatment option for coronavirus patients dealing with mild to moderate symptoms that don’t require hospitalization. A new study finds that Famotidine (Pepcid AC), a widely available drug used for stomach indigestion, may be an effective way to curb COVID-19 symptoms.
The research was small in scope, only consisting of 10 patients (6 men, 4 women), but those individuals felt the benefits of Famotidine within 24-48 hours of taking the drug. A much more expansive clinical trial on famotidine and COVID-19 is already being prepared.
Famotidine, which belongs to the histamine-2 receptor antagonist family of drugs, decreases the amount of acid produced by the stomach. It’s usually taken to treat acid reflux or heartburn, up to four times a day, at doses of 20-160 mg.
All 10 of the participants in this study started taking famotidine while they were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Among that group, seven tested positive for COVID-19, two had coronavirus antibodies, and one patient wasn’t tested but was diagnosed with COVID-19 by a physician. The group was also quite diverse; a wide variety of ages (23-71 year old), ethnicities, and known risk factors (obesity, high blood pressure).
Most patients took 80 mg three times a day, for an average of 11 days (some took the drug for only five days, while others kept up with the drug for 21 days).
Incredibly, all 10 said that their symptoms greatly improved within two days, with most saying they were feeling healthy after two weeks.
Patients reported improvements across all major symptom categories, but respiratory problems (coughing, shortness of breath) seemed to clear up especially fast.
Forgetfulness is a documented possible side effect of famotidine, and three patients did report feeling that complication.
In summation, while the study’s authors are pleased with their findings, they caution that further research on more patients is needed before any conclusions can be drawn. For instance, they aren’t sure how famotidine helps fight the coronavirus; does it stop the infection from functioning in some way or change the body’s immune response instead?
“Our case series suggests, but does not establish, a benefit from famotidine treatment in outpatients with COVID-19,” they write. “Clinically, we unreservedly share the opinion that well designed and informative studies of efficacy are required to evaluate candidate medications for COVID-19 as for other diseases.”
“An outpatient study of oral famotidine that investigates efficacy for symptom control, viral burden and disease outcome and assesses the effects of medication use on long term immunity should be considered to establish if famotidine may be of use in controlling COVID-19 in individual patients while also reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” the study concludes.
The study is published in Gut.