NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The search for a drug to treat COVID-19 has taken a surprising new turn.

Doctors are testing an approved, age-old drug to see if it stops some of the more deadly symptoms.

In his latest Max Minute report, Dr. Max Gomez says it’s a drug for gout.

The ancient Egyptians used a precursor of the drug, colchicine, to treat gout, a painful inflammation of the joints, often the big toe. Since then, it has even been used to tamp down inflammation in heart procedures. So, it was kind of a natural to try it in the runaway inflammation of COVID-19.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

It was when the coronavirus pandemic was skyrocketing in April that Emlyn and John Nyborg both started feeling awful one evening, just a few hours apart.

“I had a high fever. It actually went up to the point of over 104 degrees,” Emlyn said.

“And then it becomes uncontrollable. Your body can’t even stop shaking,” John added.

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As luck would have it, Emlyn works at NYU Langone and when she tested positive for coronavirus, researchers asked if she wanted to volunteer for a clinical trial using colchicine to rein in the damaging inflammation caused by COVID-19.

“We want to really give it within a few days of diagnosis, as early as possible. Once the inflammatory response starts, colchicine may not be strong enough to reign that back in,” said NYU Langone’s Dr. Binita Shah.

Both Emlyn and John volunteered for the international trial called COLCORONA. Shah said the advantage to using colchicine as an anti-inflammatory is, “It isn’t strong enough that it would wipe out your entire inflammatory response and make you susceptible for other infections.”

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It’s a double-blind trial, so John and Emlyn didn’t know whether they got colchicine or a placebo, but they’re both feeling better.

“It felt like my lungs are clearer,” Emlyn said.

“And you can take a deep breath, almost like you have three lungs. And that’s the difference,” John said.

The COLCORONA trial is still looking for volunteers. It’s a free, at-home, no-contact trial, but it must be started before you are sick enough to be hospitalized.

The following is more information about the COLCORONA trial:

  • Unlike most other studies, this study does not involve leaving your home. The study staff will contact you directly via phone or video-visits for follow-up. Medication or a placebo (a pill with no active ingredients) will be delivered to your home at no cost.
  • If you are interested in joining, the study staff will determine if you are eligible to join. This study is one of the few enrolling newly diagnosed patients with mild to moderate symptoms who are not hospitalized and over the age of 40 (and recruits patients past the age of 70).
  • Participation in the study lasts 30 days. When the study is completed, the results will be announced, but will not include your identifying information.
  • Patients and physicians interested in COLCORONA can call the study hotline at 1-877-536-6837, 24/7 or visit http://www.colcorona.net. If you have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 and you are interested in participating in the COLCORONA trial, do not delay calling the hotline number.

For the top questions people have been asking about the coronavirus, visit cbsnewyork.com/max, and go to facebook.com/cbsnewyork to submit your question.

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