The Boston Globe - January 15, 2021
... Dr. Melisa Lai-Becker at the Cambridge Health Alliance is also looking at a long-used medication, NAC or N-acetylcysteine, a drug approved in the 1970s that treats acetaminophen overdoses and prevents exacerbations of emphysema.
The idea came to her on a fitful night as the second surge bore down on the Boston area. “I woke up with a start,” she recalled. “All I could think was NAC, NAC.” The drug has been used to treat viral pneumonias, and there’s evidence it can moderate the immune-system overreaction that leads to severe COVID-19.
Acting on a hunch, Lai-Becker, who is site chief of emergency medicine at CHA Everett Hospital, gave NAC to about 200 COVID-19 patients in the emergency department. They seemed to tolerate it well, and many found their breathing eased.
Lai-Becker won approval from the Cambridge Health Alliance to conduct a clinical drug trial, a rare endeavor for a community hospital.. But they’re doing it without any funding, relying on the volunteer efforts of a team of physicians. They can’t even afford to use a placebo, which costs $5 to $10 per capsule, compared with seven to 10 cents for NAC capsules.
The study has enrolled 130 of the 200 patients sought (more information here: https://www.nacincovid.info). ...