The anti-inflammatory drug leronlimab is now being pushed by a Filipino doctor as a possible treatment for seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
In an interview with ANC, Dr. Randy Nicolas, associate clinical professor for surgery at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, said the investigational drug was used to treat former President Joseph Estrada after contracting COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved Leronlimab for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
However, the agency has given two doctors compassionate special permits to use the drug against the respiratory illness.
"The biggest improvement was actually his respiration. His demand for oxygen was less. He was able to get off the ventilator. He continued to improve," Nicolas said.
"And after the second dose when he was admitted to the ICU, he again showed the same pattern of improvement, approximately 35 to 52 hours after the second dose. That's what we see in our patients as well," he said.
Leronlimab, which is being investigated for use in the treatment of coronavirus, is developed by US-based biotech company CytoDyn.
The humanized monoclonal antibody, which was originally designed to treat HIV, has so far been studied in 11 clinical trials for HIV infection.
The former President and ex-mayor of Manila were discharged from the hospital on Monday after nearly a one-month fight against COVID-19.
"They had almost a thousand patients on this drug for five years with zero adverse effects. The safety record of this drug is absolutely astounding," Nicolas said.
For COVID-19 treatment, he said leronlimab targets the cytokine called CCR5 receptor found on T lymphocytes of the human immune system.
Nicolas explained that COVID-19 was a 2-phase disease – virus phase and immune phase.
"The virus phase is the constitutional symptom. The fever, cough, loss of taste and smell, and body aches. This is where we need to actively treat the patients before they go into the second stage," Nicolas said.
"The second stage is the stage that kills. This is the immune stage. The initiator of the immune phase is actually our own immune system, meaning to say our immune system forgets about the virus and starts attacking our own cells…Leronlimab is an antibody that blocks the cytokine that initiates the immune response. The immune phase is stopped by this drug,” he said.
Nicolas said it was Estrada's team of doctors who suggested the use of leronlimab, which came from the US.
"When I look at the science, I was thoroughly convinced that leronlimab is truly the drug of choice for severe, critical COVID," he said.