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New drug being used for COVID-19 patients with respiratory failure

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As hundreds of people have died from the coronavirus in the Rio Grande Valley, one local hospital announced Tuesday they have already started using a potentially life-saving drug on the most critical COVID-19 patients.

When severe, the coronavirus has shown to complicate a person's breathing and fill their lungs with fluid.

"There are very few tools that are available to reverse or slowdown that particular process," said Dr. Sohail Rao, president and CEO of DHR Health's Institute for Research and Development.

Dr. Rao announced his doctors are using Aviptadil to help fight the infection. DHR Health has received 18 units of the drug.

Aviptadil uses human hormones found in the intestines and lungs, which in drug form works to block the coronavirus from binding to lung cells.

"Allowing the lungs to actually heal and therefore become a good exchange mechanism for oxygen," Dr. Rao said.

Since Aviptadil is still in clinical trials, the Food and Drug Administration gave Aviptadil's manufacturer NeuroRX a Fast Track Designation so doctors may request the drug for their patients.

Aviptadil is only administered to COVID-19 patients with respiratory failure, and the patient must be on a ventilator and using oxygen in order to breath.

Dr. Rao explains the drug is given to patients over a three-day period for 12-15 hours intravenously. If the patient is over the weight requirements for a single dose, then they may require an additional dose.

Although the number of patients hospitalized in the valley has gone down, Dr. Rao says the use of this drug is a sign the virus is still hospitalizing people in the community.

"[In] some parts of the Valley [hospitalizations are] still be continuing to go up," Dr. Rao said.

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