As the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb in the United States and in Tennessee, with the volunteer state confirming a total of 4,138 cases as of Wednesday, drug trials have been launched across the country, all with the goal of discovering prevention and treatment methods for those infected with COVID-19.
Among the latest of those trials is the Healthcare Worker Exposure Response and Outcomes (HERO) trial, a federal research program that looks to explore the effectiveness of plaquenil hydroxychloroquine in preventing the contraction of COVID-19, the drug touted by President Donald Trump as showing “tremendous promise” in treating COVID-19 patients.
Late Wednesday night, Williamson Medical Center, along with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, became the first medical centers in the state to be chosen as participants in the HERO trial.
How is the HERO trial conducted?
The HERO trial will see a number of healthcare workers and first responders given plaquenil hydroxychloroquine over a month-long period to see how effective the drug is at preventing the contraction of COVID-19. Nationwide, a total of 40 sites will be selected to participate in the trial, enrolling 15,000 health care workers across the state.
A number of different medical staff and first responders are eligible to participate in the trial, including police, firefighters, EMS workers, respiratory therapists, ICU doctors, nurses, emergency room physicians and more. Those looking to participate in the HERO study are encouraged to fill out a form online by clicking here.
The HERO trial at Williamson Medical Center
Each particular site approved to participate in the HERO trial may enroll up to 375 people — after less than 24 hours of being enrolled in the program, Williamson Medical has already enrolled close to 100. WMC is looking to expand its number of participants, and has encouraged those interested to apply.
“We just think it would be helpful to have [this] in [the news] because, while we're really good at recruiting at the medical center, this is going to be open to police departments, EMS [and] fire departments,” said Aaron Milstone, a pulmonary critical care specialist at Williamson Medical. “This is in some ways the Trump trial, because this is what Trump has been touting, that this drug might prevent people from getting infected. [Right now], it’s a who's who of major medical centers; it's Columbia, it's Michigan, it's Penn State... we are really — in the first batch — the only non academic medical center to be selected.”
Milestone is also the principal investigator for the HERO trial at Williamson Medical, and was involved Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to issue a stay-at-home order last week. Milstone said the drug used in the HERO trial has been prominently used in the U.S. for decades, but that clinical trials on the drug overseas have shown some promising results.
“This is the drug that is used [for] patients with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and it's a pretty safe drug, it's been around for like three decades in the U.S., Milstone said. “This is a drug that in a couple of European trials has shown an effectiveness not only for prevention, but also for treatment. Patients that have COVID pneumonia are often given this drug as well.”
With the federal government selecting a total of 40 sites across the U.S. to participate in the study, 20 have been selected so far. The launch of the HERO trial at Williamson Medical and Vanderbilt Medical will likely begin next week, according to Milstone.