Sarasota Memorial Hospital joins two national COVID-19 clinical research trials

One study involves use of plasma donated by people who have recovered from the illness

The Sarasota Memorial complex is on U.S. 41 in Sarasota. Photo courtesy Sarasota Memorial Health Care

This week, Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) started two national clinical trials related to the treatment of COVID-19, the hospital announced.

“The first study is testing the investigational antiviral drug remdesivir, while the second trial is evaluating the use of plasma donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat current patients,” a news release explains.

Remdesivir has previously shown promise in the treatment of other types of coronaviruses,” the release points out. “SMH is one of  the first hospitals in the Southeast region to participate in this worldwide study to assess the medication’s safety and effectiveness in treating COVID-19. To be given the option to participate in the FDA-approved remdesivir trial at SMH, COVID-19 positive patients must be hospitalized in the ICU, on a ventilator and meet other clinical criteria,” the release adds.

The convalescent plasma study is a clinical trial coordinated with the Mayo Clinic “to evaluate whether the antibodies in plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 can help newly infected patients,” the release explains. “The plasma from just one donor can be used to treat up to four patients.”

SMH is partnering with the Suncoast Blood Centers, which will collect and provide the donated plasma for this FDA-approved trial, the release says. “Sarasota Memorial Hospital-Florida State University Internal Medicine resident physicians will collaborate with the SMH Clinical Research Team to help gather data to conduct this research,” the release adds.

“There is currently no proven, established treatment for COVID-19, which is why participating in this important research is a priority for SMH,” said Sarasota Memorial CEO David Verinder in the release. “We are grateful to the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation for immediately stepping in to help support this work.,” he added in the release.

“Clinical research has always been one of the Healthcare Foundation’s key areas of focus,” the release notes.

“The Healthcare Foundation’s role is to support SMH in its mission of providing excellent healthcare to our community in good times — and in crisis,” said Mason Ayres, president of Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, in the release. “We are incredibly thankful for the way our community continues to come forward and help during this unprecedented time of need.”

“With a likely vaccine at least a year away,” the release points out, “SMH was pleased to add the investigational treatments to its arsenal of care for COVID-19 patients.”

In addition to participating in the two clinical trials, Sarasota Memorial is using the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, as well as high-dose steroids and specialized antibiotics in the treatment of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, the release notes.