University of Minnesota Launches COVID-19 Clinical Trials of Blood Pressure Drug Losartan

Supported by Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics and COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Funding

MINNEAPOLIS, MN- April 20, 2020 – University of Minnesota Medical School researchers have begun enrolling patients in newly launched clinical trials involving a blood pressure medication, losartan, as a potential treatment for those recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Both studies are multi-site trials, one for patients requiring hospitalization and the other for diagnosed patients who do not require a hospital stay.

The first evaluates whether the angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) losartan can prevent lung injury in those hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia, while the second evaluates if the drug can prevent hospitalizations.

The trial's co-principal investigators are Christopher Tignanelli, MD, assistant professor in the Medical School's Department of Surgery, Division of Critical Care/Acute Care Surgery, and Michael Puskarich, MD, associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University and emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare – HCMC.

"Losartan has an established safety profile and is readily available," said Tignanelli. "We wanted to test a readily available, cheap, FDA-approved, generic drug with potential efficacy against COVID-19."

The way losartan works is promising because it blocks a receptor, or doorway into cells, that a chemical called angiotensin II uses to raise blood pressure, and in excess, damages the lungs. COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2, binds to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, preventing it from doing its normal job in breaking down angiotensin II and leading to higher than normal levels. It's possible that losartan might block that extra angiotensin II, stopping lung injury.

"Losartan is different from the other treatments being tested right now - it's not an antiviral medication," said Puskarich. "We're trying to prevent the lung injury caused by the virus that makes it so deadly. We're trying to turn COVID-19 into an everyday coronavirus - the common cold."

The inpatient trial, funded by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Funds, takes place in Minnesota at M Health Fairview hospitals and HCMC, as well as at multiple sites nationwide.

The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is an initiative launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard, with funding from an array of public and philanthropic donors, to speed-up the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by funding the identification, assessment, development and scale-up of treatments.

The outpatient arm of the trial, funded by the Minnesota Partnership, will enroll patients at M Health Fairview hospitals, Mayo Clinic and HCMC.

"No matter how promising an existing drug may appear to be in treating COVID-19, there is only one way to determine safety and effectiveness for patients. And, that is a well-designed clinical trial," said Tim Schacker, MD, vice dean for research at the Medical School and co-investigator of the trial.

Tignanelli and Puskarich, in a correspondence piece published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, challenged the medical community to investigate if blood pressure medications could be an effective treatment for those with COVID-19. Five weeks later, the team, led by Tignanelli and Puskarich, enrolled the first person in such a study to test their hypothesis. The rapid launch of two more complex clinical trials is another illustration of the ability of the University of Minnesota to rapidly innovate and deploy research aimed at mitigating COVID-19 and its associated risks.

###

About the University of Minnesota Medical School

The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. Visit med.umn.edu to learn how the University of Minnesota is innovating all aspects of medicine.

Contact:
Kelly Glynn
Media Relations Coordinator, University of Minnesota Medical School
glynn040@umn.edu
414-758-3191

Share this post

Related News

  • Couple Returns to Minnesota, This Time to Make an Impact in Medicine

    Rahel Nardos, MD, MCR, and Damien Fair, PA-C, PhD, a married faculty duo are joining the University of Minnesota Medical School in different fields of medicine.Dr. Fair serves as the co-director of the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain, and Dr. Nardos is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health and serves as a urogynecologist and director for Global Women's Health at the Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility.

  • Long-standing ‘Hand Skills Day’ Simulation Goes Virtual

    With reduced exposure to the operating room during the COVID-19 pandemic, simulated orthopedic training has helped fill in learning gaps for residents, including the department’s James House, MD, Hand Skills Lectureship and Educational Workshop.