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Tahlequah researchers seeking candidates for clinical trial testing for protection from COVID after exposure to the virus

Posted at 1:04 AM, Dec 09, 2021

TULSA, Okla. — Tahlequah researchers are seeking volunteers for a clinical trail that is testing the efficacy of a COVID-19 pill on people who have been exposed to the virus.

Dr. Jorge Mera, infectious disease specialist with the Cherokee Nation Outpatient Center in Tahlequah, said the drug could be a game changer in the fight against COVID-19 because it would be the first oral treatment option for patients with mild COVID-19. To date, treatment has only happened in a hospital setting.

Malnupiravir is a COVID-19 antiviral drug that is making waves in the medical world. Clinical trials all around the globe have been testing the pill on people with COVID-19. The FDA Advisory Panel recently voted to recommend it for Emergency Use Authorization.

Experts in Oklahoma said the data available so far shows pill treatments decreased hospitalizations by 30 percent. However, no data yet been published by a peer review journal, according to Dr. Mera.

“It promotes widespread mutation within the virus that makes the virus in-efficient and unable to replicate, that’s the mechanism of this particular drug,” Dr. Mera said.

Dr. Mera is leading a clinical trial using that same drug.

“Same drug, same principal, but the approval that’s undergoing EUA authorization evaluation right now, is to treat patients who present a mild to moderate COVID-19 to prevent them from being hospitalized or die,” he said.

Dr. Mera said their study is testing the pill's efficacy at preventing the virus on a person who has been exposed to it.

Their clinical trials started in September. Since then, they have recruited three participants.

“When the study started, we were hoping to recruit about 10," Dr. Mera said.

He said the requirements for the trial are very specific, making the recruitment process difficult.

Eligible candidates must meet the following criteria, be a tribal citizen, unvaccinated, and live in a household where one person who has tested positive COVID-19.

If the drug gets the EUA approval, Dr. Mera hopes it will help recruit candidates for their trial. However, he warns the pill should not be a reason to disregard the vaccine.

“We are not going to treat ourselves out of this pandemic, the only way is to prevent it and prevention is the vaccine,” Dr. Mera said.

If you think you are a candidate, you can call the study hotline at 918-718-5852.

Dr. Mera said someone will take your call or return your call if you leave a message.

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