NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As doctors scramble to find effective ways to treat COVID-19, some turn to so-called “off-label” treatments. That’s using drugs to fight coronavirus without Food and Drug Administration approval.

One drug that may be showing some success is already in millions of medicine cabinets, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Tuesday.

At Coney Island Hospital, there is positive news for those admitted with COVID-19 and those first showing up at the intake tent. It’s a common asthma drug, Singulair, known generically as Montelukast.

Dr. Caleb Hernandez discussed Singulair on a Zoom call sponsored by and the emDOCs Facebook group.

Hernandez said the disease is very serious with many in need of critical care. He says giving some patients Singulair has shown promise and needs additional study.

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Hernandez said Singulair is helping many hospitalized recover, including one man who said “‘I had just told my kids to say goodbye for the very last time.’ He says ‘After you gave it to me I have hope I’m gonna make it through the night.'”


Hernandez found research by University of Virginia Dr. Tom Braciale, indicating Singulair reduces inflammation in the lungs.

“It may also work by preventing infection of the cells in the lungs that are involved in oxygen exchange. So, if those cells are not infected by COVID-19 the immune system won’t destroy them and they will be able to function normally,” Braciale said.

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Singulair is not approved as a COVID-19 treatment, but millions have taken it safely for asthma. So, some doctors are comfortable with so-called off-label use during the pandemic, especially with circumstantial evidence of some COVID-19 protection for asthmatics taking these drugs.

“I have great compassion for my colleagues in New York City in the trenches. They start looking for alternative approaches. What we need is a powerful, statistically-based clinical trial to test efficacy of these types of drugs in COVID-19 infection,” Braciale said.

He is seeking funding for a trial, as some doctors share the success they’re seeing with Singulair and other drugs.

Comments (4)
  1. Casey Halcro says:

    Interesting that another study found that montelukast has a high binding affinity for the 3CLpro monomer in the coronavirus structure, a desirable target for an antiviral. See: Hopefully someone does in fact conduct an RCT to assess the potential effectiveness of montelukast.

    1. Brian says:

      Are you saying Montelukast may exacerbate the progress of Coivd -19 in an individual?

  2. Jay Bennett says:

    The medical establishment is not functioning in America… there are now several effective treatments particularly when given early on an outpatient basis … yet the state governments on the recommendations of NIH have dictated that treatment can only be provided in-patient. But cortisone, tylenol and a ventilator kills! Why do we allow this ventilator killing factory system to continue – how can we trust our medical system again after wholesale murdering so many people – hospitals coldly refusing to to use these inexpensive treatments working on thousands throughout the world? Corruption in the FDA must end. Doctors and hospitals powerless and unwilling to stand up to the establishment – truly sad.

  3. Prakash Patel says:

    How about prescribing montelukast to all Covid Positive patients from day one for about 14 days and to all hospitalized patients.If this help to cut down hospitalization , we will win this war in less than one month. Please start large scale study using montelukast now.

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