I can’t believe I’m writing this. You probably know by now how I feel about most heartburn drugs. But it looks like we MAY have finally found a good use for certain types of these meds.
And, ironically, it doesn’t have a thing to do with treating heartburn.
A series of new reports find that one specific form of these medications COULD help treat folks with the COVID-19 coronavirus infection that’s still killing thousands of Americans every week.
And if more research proves the early word on this drug to be accurate, it could help in two critical ways…
- Easing symptoms in people recovering at home
- Improving survival in hospitalized patients
Incredibly, this ISN’T even one of the new heartburn drugs that have been all the rage in recent years. It’s one of the older ones that doesn’t get much attention anymore.
But that could be about to change in a BIG way.
Heartburn drug shows promise for COVID-19
To be clear, I’m NOT a fan of heartburn meds. New and old, they’re typically lousy ways to control reflux and other symptoms.
The newer ones – PPIs – are probably the worst of the lot. But thankfully, this potential breakthrough is in one of the older medications. One we know to be safer than PPIs called famotidine (commonly sold as Pepcid and its generic equivalents).
One new study of more than 1,600 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 found that patients taking the drug were:
- TWICE as likely to survive
- HALF as likely to need intubation
This wasn’t a clinical trial, just an analysis done AFTER the hospitalizations. We don’t know why some of these patients were on the heartburn drug. It’s likely many were already taking it for reflux and continued to take it while in the hospital.
More research needs to be done, of course. But the scientists tried to look for other factors to explain that astounding difference… and came up empty.
Could 7 cents buy you some peace of mind?
In a second, smaller study, patients battling the coronavirus infection at home were taking 80 mg of the heartburn three times a day. They reported improvement in some of the infection’s key symptoms, including shortness of breath and fever.
Once again, it was NOT a clinical trial. But the findings are encouraging. Especially when you consider this over-the-counter drug costs about seven cents per dose.
The results are so promising that researchers are planning more trials, including intravenous treatment in hospitalized patients. They’re also going to try to get the heartburn drug to the patients earlier in the infection, hoping that it could make an even bigger difference.
If you’re sick and suspect the coronavirus, you should NEVER take this, or any other self-treatments that aren’t recommended by your doctor.
But if you’re suffering from a COVID-19 infection and told to rest and recover at home, feel free to ask your doc what he thinks. He may feel the short-term use of the heartburn drug is worth a shot in addition to any other steps you’re taking to recover faster.