As spotlight shines on COVID-19 vaccines, treatment trials continue

With the spotlight on COVID-19 vaccines and distribution, doctors say people shouldn’t forget about another key focus area where volunteers are still needed for clinical trials: possible treatments for the virus.

“Vaccines are not 100% and not everybody will be able to get a vaccine or will be willing to take a vaccine,” said Dr. Rachel Bender Ignacio, medical director of the COVID-19 Clinical Research Center on Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s South Lake Union campus. “So treatments studies are so important and go hand in hand with vaccines and public health measures to keep us safe.”

The new stand-alone clinical research center, one of the first designed specifically to test COVID-19 novel interventions, has several ongoing clinical trials that include Remdesivir, Regeneron and Molnupiravir, an antiviral pill.

“If it works, it means that someone’s primary care physician could prescribe it and somebody could pick up or have it delivered,” said Bender Ignacio, who told KIRO 7 that access and equity are key. “We will need a treatment that everybody can get.”

The clinical trials, led by Fred Hutch and the University of Washington School of Medicine, will continue enrolling COVID-19 positive study volunteers after the New Year.

Because the clinical trials focus on early treatment, Fred Hutch said people interested in participating in a study should contact the research center by phone or email the same day, or as soon as possible after testing positive.

“We’re interested in talking to people and enrolling people of all backgrounds, and of all ages,” said Dr. Bender Ignacio. “But we’re specifically looking for people who may be at higher risk of needing to be hospitalized, so people with other medical conditions.”

Terry Mutter told KIRO 7 he tested positive for COVID-19 in October, contacted the clinical research center the same day, and was enrolled in a study by Saturday.

“I was a high-risk person to get COVID and I did not go to the hospital so that’s a plus,” said Mutter, who doesn’t know whether he received an actual treatment or a placebo during the study. Participants are monitored for possible allergic reactions and with a device that checks oxygen levels and temperatures. “If people don’t participate, it’s pretty hard to advance this science.”