PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A local trial for outpatient treatments for COVID-19 is now available through UPMC. The trial involves a pill rather than an IV.

Megan Maida came down with COVID a week after her husband. She saw an ad on social media about an outpatient treatment study. Her husband was past the eligibility cut-off, but Megan qualified since she was more recently diagnosed and had mild symptoms.

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“I was the first one for Pitt to get this, I think it was new to us and the team,” Megan says. “She went over three different treatments that I might be eligible for.”

The research coordinator explained that because Megan was at low risk for progression to severe disease, she would get either a shot of long-acting immune system proteins, which bind to the coronavirus; inhaled interferon, which can boost the body’s immune response; or a pill four times a day, which blocks an enzyme the virus needs to infect cells.

The idea is to find a treatment that works to lessen the illness, in length or severity, kind of like taking Tamiflu early on with the flu.

It is possible participants could get a placebo. The international team of researchers wants to know if these treatments are safe, reduce symptoms and reduce hospitalization.

“We have enrolled 25 participants, but we are looking for more,” says Dr. Madhu Choudhary, an infectious diseases specialist at UPMC who is spearheading the local part of the study.

You cannot take part if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, but you can still get immunized.

“They are not prohibited from getting standard treatment if their disease were to progress and they end up in the hospital,” Dr. Choudhary adds.

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(Photo: KDKA)

“I believe I am taking the interferon through a nebulizer. Luckily, I’ve used a nebulizer before,” Megan says. “You take two syringes and put it in, into the slot where you’d put the medicine. Three minutes later, you’re done.”

She is more than halfway through her daily two-week at-home treatment. She does a nasal swab before each treatment and keeps a daily diary.

“I hope I actually got the drug,” she says. “In the beginning, I had all that chest tightness, and now I do not have any of that.”

She has visits at the hospital every few days, a few rounds of bloodwork and phone calls. She’ll be followed for 18 months.

“I feel like for me, this was a very small thing I could do,” she says.

She finds participating in the study a minor inconvenience compared to being on a ventilator.

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For more information about the ACTIV-2 trial at Pitt, email hazcovid@pitt.edu. For more information about ACTIV-2, visit the study website at https://www.activ-2.org.