A promising drug for COVID-19

By Sen. John Bizon, M.D.
19th Senate District

We are now in the midst of a COVID-19 virus epidemic that threatens both the lives of our residents and the economy of the nation. But there is much to bring optimism.

There are, on the horizon, many new pathways to testing not only if you have the virus, but also if you previously had the virus. Without these tests, the medical and public health communities have been handicapped in their attempts to control the infection.

In addition, there are many new medications being tested. One in particular has caught my attention because it is reported to turn one’s own immune system on.

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Sen. Lana Theis of Brighton asked me to talk with Dr. Edward Loniewski, an orthopedic surgeon who had contacted her on a medical issue.

Dr. Loniewski has been doing some trials on stem cells with a group out of Seattle, Washington called AVM Biotechnology. Their founder and lead researcher, Dr. Theresa Deisher, along with her team, have been working on a medicine labeled AVM0703. The drug is now in trials to obtain Food and Drug Administration approval for use in this epidemic.

This is the drug with the ability to switch on one’s own immune system. The amazing thing is that the drug is based on a generic medicine that is currently available. Doctors are using that generic medicine in many of the patients currently being treated for their COVID-19 infections, especially when they are hospitalized.

Doctors typically give this medication in very small doses over an extended period of time. To get the effect of turning on the immune system, one very large dose must be given orally or by feeding tube, according to the researchers.

The parent molecule, dexamethasone, was developed in the late 1950s and came to the market in the early 1960s. It has side effects, mainly minor, and is approved by the FDA for use by doctors now, even in the higher dosages required to trigger the immune system response.

We could wait for the blessing of the federal government to approve this drug for use, waiting the weeks or months for that approval. Or we could use the generic medicine now with no additional paperwork or trials.

If you have family members who are very sick with the virus, please consider asking your doctors to consider this approach, or to consider using some other “off label” medicines, such as hydroxychloroquine with or without azithromycin, anti-viral drugs, the polio vaccine, the measles vaccine, or immune builders like interferon.

This is not a time to wait on the federal government when so many lives are hanging by a thread and could be saved by action now.

State Sen. John Bizon, M.D., R-Battle Creek, represents Michigan’s 19th District.