The Trump Administration pushed through a $21 million contract to study whether the active ingredient in Pepcid is an effective treatment for Covid-19.
That contract is now under scrutiny after a government whistleblower accused a senior administration official of rushing the deal through without the scientific oversight necessary for such a large federal award.
The Food and Drug Administration gave the clinical trial speedy approval even as a top agency official worried that daily injections of high doses of famotidine for already sick patients pushed the levels of what was considered safe “to the limits,” internal government emails show.
And the doctors who initially pushed the Pepcid idea are locked in a battle for credit and sniping over allegations of scientific misconduct.
The origins of the interest in famotidine are under dispute, but there were reports out of China that patients who took the drug survived the virus, while patients who took other heartburn medications were not surviving.
Initial observational studies in the U.S. were promising, however scientists urged more research was needed.
Meantime, the trial itself that was part of the $21 million contract is on pause due to a shortage of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in New York, delaying it indefinitely.
A vaccine or effective treatment could be available before the study is complete.