The National Institutes of Health selected Pitt to lead a trio of phase three trials involving COVID-19 patients.By Amy Wadas

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Since the pandemic began, Pittsburgh has been on the cutting edge of trials looking for vaccines and other medical advancements to fight COVID-19. That continues with a new one starting in the Steel City on Wednesday. This one isn’t open to everyone but just those worst cases where the patient is hospitalized with the virus.

“The disease is associated with a high incidence of blood clotting complications,” said Dr. Matthew Neal.

That’s why Dr. Neal says he wants to find a solution.

“We actually think that some of the blood clotting problem that occurs in the small vessel of the lungs contributes to why patients develop such a significant respiratory illness after COVID,” said Dr. Neal.

Dr. Neal is an associate professor of surgery at Pitt and UPMC and one of the researchers heading up the study in Pittsburgh. He said a few months ago, the National Institutes of Health selected Pitt to lead a trio of phase three trials involving COVID-19 patients. Researchers at UPMC began enrolling patients in the trial on Wednesday.

“With the surge we are seeing in our community, we anticipate that we will be enrolling a number of patients in the Pittsburgh region over the coming days to weeks,” said Dr. Neal.

Dr. Neal says clotting is most common in patients with moderate or severe COVID symptoms but can happen in patients with mild symptoms or even develop after a patient has recovered from the virus.

“There are increasing reports of patients being re-hospitalized with blood clots in veins or even strokes or late heart attacks,” said Neal.

Dr. Neal says this first inpatient study tests two different doses of the blood thinner heparin on patients. A future outpatient study, which will get underway soon, will test blood thinners on patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19. A third study will test patients who were in the hospital with COVID-19 after they’re back home.

“I think once we have an answer from the trial, then wide access will be available to these medications because they’re already prescribed for other conditions and they’re common,” said Dr. Neal.

He says he is optimistic he will have the results of the inpatient trial within a couple of months.

He says the other two phases will also be taking place in Pittsburgh.