University of Minnesota Medical School researchers have launched two new clinical trials to test whether the blood pressure medication losartan can prevent lung injury in people recently diagnosed with COVID-19.
One trial examines its efficacy in those hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia, the second its ability to prevent hospitalization in patients diagnosed with COVID-19. The trials are based on losartan’s effects on the hormone angiotensin II, which normally maintains blood pressure.
The novel coronavirus interferes with the mechanism that regulates the hormone’s level; this leads to high blood pressure and lung damage. Losartan, however, blocks the action of the hormone. The researchers hope this will counteract the effects of the excess angiotensin II and prevent lung damage in COVID-19 patients.
The inpatient trial takes place in Minnesota at M Health Fairview hospitals and Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), as well as multiple sites nationwide. The outpatient arm of the trial will enroll patients at M Health Fairview hospitals, Mayo Clinic, and HCMC.
“Losartan has an established safety profile and is readily available,” says trial co-principal investigator Christopher Tignanelli, an assistant professor in the Medical School’s Department of Surgery. “We wanted to test a readily available, cheap, FDA-approved, generic drug with potential efficacy against COVID-19.”
“Losartan is different from the other treatments being tested right now—it’s not an antiviral medication,” says trial co-principal investigator Michael Puskarich, an associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and an emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare-HCMC. “We’re trying to turn COVID-19 into an everyday coronavirus—the common cold.”