VentaProst Delivers Drugs to COVID-Damaged Lungs


COLUMBUS, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— COVID patients whose lungs have been damaged by the virus have needed mechanical ventilation— and many patients who have been placed on ventilators have not survived. Now, researchers are testing a new drug delivery system, VentaProst, designed to improve the oxygen levels of the sickest patients.

More than 31 million Americans have become sick with COVID since the pandemic began, and in that time, pulmonologists have learned much more about how the virus attacks the lungs.

“We recognized that COVID did the same thing that pulmonary hypertension does to the blood vessels of the lungs. It causes a dropout of these pulmonary vessels, so that the conduits to which the body delivers blood to the lungs to get oxygen— were disappearing,” explained Raymond Benza, MD, of The Ohio State University Medical Center.

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Now, researchers at Ohio State are testing a new way to deliver medication directly to the damaged blood vessels. The VentaProst system works along with a mechanical ventilator to generate and deliver small droplets of an inhaled medication.

“It involves an even distribution of this drug, which is called epoprostenol, to the affected areas of the blood vessels,” Dr. Benza described.

Doctors say this method of directly delivering the drug helps open up the blood vessels, improves oxygenation, and reduces strain on the heart. With VentaProst, doctors are hopeful they can improve outcome for COVID’S sickest patients.

Patients in the trial will receive ten days of the treatment to see if it reduces circulatory and respiratory failure. The researchers will then follow the patients for four weeks to see if the treatment reduces time on the ventilator, or in the hospital ICU.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: The pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, or nCoV-2, can lead to respiratory failure with profound hypoxemia requiring endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation. Raymond Benza, MD, of The Ohio State University Medical Center told Ivanhoe, “The amount of pain and suffering that we’ve experienced this year has been unprecedented, not only for a health care professional like myself, but the people who are actually suffering from the disease. And as you know, COVID-19 has a predilection for the lung, although it is a systemic disease, it affects almost every organ in the body, but it’s most lethal effects are in the chest and in the heart and in the lungs. It creates an inflammatory process in the lung that often leads to mechanical ventilation, which everyone has become so familiar with these days— not only with the shortage of ventilators that we experienced in the very beginning of the pandemic, but then having to learn how to use ventilators in a totally different way that were designed to help this particular type of patient and this particular type of disease.”

(Source: Raymond Benza, MD, The Ohio State University Medical Center)

TESTING NEW METHODS: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is the first in the United States to participate in a clinical trial that aims to improve oxygen levels and overall treatment outcomes for COVID-19 patients who are on mechanical ventilation. In the double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers assessed both the safety and the efficacy of an inhaled drug called epoprostenol via the new VentaProst aerosol drug delivery system created by Aerogen Pharma. It generates and precisely delivers small, what doctors call, “highly-respirable droplets,” of the medication in synchrony with patients’ breathing. The system features a closed-circuit design that helps protect clinical staff from potential exposure to virus-contaminated patient exhalations. The new drug delivery method combines the properties of a potent vasodilator, or the medication, that opens up blood vessels, an anti-inflammatory mediator, and an anti-clotting agent.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Now, doctors are working to protect the diaphragmatic muscle from atrophying by delivering drugs through the ventilation. Raymond Benza, MD, of The Ohio State University Medical Center told Ivanhoe, “Aerogen, which is the company that manufactures the pieces that we can fit to a ventilator that allowed us to deliver these medications to the ventilated patient with COVID-19, was really the breakthrough that we needed to deliver this drug because it involves an even distribution of this drug which is called epoprostenol to the affected areas of the blood vessels. And epoprostenol is a drug that’s been around for a long time. It’s really one of the cornerstones of therapy for pulmonary hypertension. Epoprostenol does all the good things that you want to do to a blood vessel. It makes the blood vessel reactive again, it helps heal the lining of the blood vessels, and it restores the intelligence to the blood vessel that we need for it to regulate the flow of blood to the lungs. And so now we had a good drug and now we had a delivery system that we can use that can aerosolize that drug and deliver it to patients who are ventilated with COVID-19. It looks like a screen that has delivery tubes hooked up to it. And the screen is actually a computerized motor, in essence, that allows you to deliver a specific amount of the drug with ventilation. And so, it kind of hooks up to the ventilator and works in tandem with the ventilator.”

(Source: Raymond Benza, MD, The Ohio State University Medical Center)




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