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Charleston VA involved in 'very promising’ COVID-19 treatment trial

Updated: Oct. 5, 2020 at 3:20 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Some COVID-19 patients at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center are now involved in a new experimental treatment to prevent the virus from getting into their lungs.

About 20 VAs across the country are participating in the HITCH Trial, Hormonal Intervention for the Treatment in Veterans with COVID-19 Requiring Hospitalization. In Charleston, the primary investigator is Dr. Terrill Huggins.

“It’s very promising," Huggins said. “I’d say any time we pursue a potential therapy, we always weigh the risk and benefit. There’s strong scientific evidence that this drug may work.”

Male patients who agree to the terms of the trial get one injection of either placebo or Degarelix, a drug approved by the FDA to treat prostate cancer. There’s evidence that testosterone in a complex way helps the virus get into the lungs, Huggins said. If it’s taken away, so is the lung issue entry.

Right now, the hospital has one enrolled patient and several others being screened.

“There’s clearly a gender difference," he said. "Men and women are equally affected in terms of prevalence of COVID, however men who contract COVID pneumonia have a higher risk of death and bad outcomes.”

Neither the doctor nor the patient know if the drug or placebo was given, but either way the patient is monitored for 30 days and gets regular blood work done. Their results are shared with the VA in Los Angeles where the trial is being run from.

The results of whether or not it works could be known as early as the end of this year, Huggins said.

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