BOSTON (CBS) — TPA is a drug that is used to help stroke and heart attack victims. It works by breaking up or busting blood clots. Doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are now using it in a clinical trial on gravely ill coronavirus patients.
“There’s a lot of very small blood clots accumulating in the lungs of these patients,” said Dr. Christopher Barrett. “And that seems to be at least contributory, if not the predominant reason, that their respiratory failure is so bad.”
Dr. Barrett says TPA could help patients recover faster, free up ventilators and even prevent people from needing them altogether.
“What kills patients immediately isn’t necessarily the virus, it’s organ failure. And with this disease it’s failure of the lungs.” Dr. Barrett said. “If we can support patients’ organs to allow their immune systems to fight off the virus, it could potentially save a lot of lives.”
With a vaccine for the coronavirus months, if not a year, away, Barrett said physicians are using the intravenous drug off label to treat COVID-19 patients and are getting good results. But, he says, a bigger FDA approved study is needed to learn more.
Barrett, who served in the Army’s airborne infantry explained it this way, “America and the world is at war with this virus. History teaches that in order to win wars, we have to be innovative and innovate our way out of this crisis. We just need to dig deep and find a way to make it happen. This is gonna require us to think outside the box and do things we haven’t normally done.”
Barrett says he is awaiting FDA approval for phase two of the study. He says the drug might not work for everyone, but is optimistic based on what he’s seen so far.
He is working with several others on the clinical trials, including Dr. Hunter Moore and Dr. Ernest Moore, of the University of Colorado, and Dr. Michael Yaffe of MIT and a surgeon at Beth Israel.