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Montefiore in the News

May 29, 2020

David Propper, Rockland/Westchester Journal News Published 6:00 a.m. ET May 29, 2020 | Updated 7:54 a.m. ET May 29, 2020 In the three months since the coronavirus pandemic first hit New York, Rye Brook doctor Barry Zingman said health care workers have "learned so much" about how to treat the deadly disease.

But the work is far from over. 

Zingman, the clinical director of infectious diseases for Montefiore Health System, is overseeing the second stage of a treatment trial to determine if a combination of drugs can help hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover from the deadly respiratory disease. 

Rye Brook doctor Barry Zingman, who works at Montefiore. (Photo: Montefiore)

Zingman is the principal investigator for the trial at Montefiore. He joined a nationwide effort in late March to see if an antiviral drug, remidesivir, could serve as a treatment for COVID-19 patients. The national trial is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Early results from the trial indicated patients who received remdesivir recovered in 11 days on average compared to 15 days for patients in the placebo group. Zingman said mortality rates also decreased among those COVID-19 patients facing severe symptoms.  

Nearly 10 percent of the 1,063 clinical trial participants came from Montefiore. 

"If you're recovering faster, you're recovering in all aspects faster, including getting rid of the virus from the body," Zingman said. "Remdisivir has become the treatment of choice now for people who were shown to benefit from this treatment in the study."

But Zingman did caution it's not a miracle drug and does not work for everyone. 

His team is now moving forward with the next phase of the trial.

"We are looking forward to having even better treatments or combination of treatment for a range of people with COVID-19," Zingman said. 

He has been a Rye Brook resident since 1992 and is a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The next step of the trial is to explore remdesivir coupled up with baricitinib to see if the two drugs together can prevent hyper-inflammation that can fatally overwhelm the lungs and other parts of the body in people suffering from COVID-19. 

Zingman said health care workers are concerned that the immune response to the virus can be more deadly in some cases than the infection itself. Using baricitinib might reduce that problem.

Patients enrolled in the study are in the hospital with lung complications from the coronavirus that require supplemental oxygen or a ventilator.

All patients will receive remdesivir intravenously for up to 10 days. Half will receive baricitinib by mouth while the other half will be given a placebo for 14 days. 

Zingman said the trial site he's overseeing is one of three in New York. Results from this study would take about two to three months because enrollment is slower as the pandemic begins to wane. 

"I'm hopeful that this will help," Zingman said. "The new medication is to try to treat the inflammation that's been set off by the infection. Among all the available drugs set off by the inflammation that are currently available, this one seems to be one of the most promising."