AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) and Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City have begun a clinical trial in which they are giving hospitalized COVID-19 patients Farxiga, which is actually a diabetes treatment. While the blood-sugar-lowering drug won't do anything to combat the coronavirus itself, the investigators are looking for signs that it can reduce the risk of some of its potentially lethal complications. 

Farxiga helps patients with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar by promoting the passage of glucose from the bloodstream to the bladder. It's approved to reduce the risk of heart failure for high-risk diabetes patients.

Microscope in use

Image source: Getty Images.

The DARE-19 trial will be enrolling hospitalized COVID-19 patients who also have cardiovascular, metabolic, or kidney problems. The risks of serious complications such as organ failure make this group extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus. And since it is already known that Farxiga reduces risks of lethal complications over the long run for these patients, there's a pretty good chance it can provide some benefit to them while they are struggling with the additional health threats that come with a severe case of COVID-19.

Everything but the kitchen sink

Fighting viruses is not one of AstraZeneca's major areas of focus, but the company is trying to assist the global COVID-19 response in any way it can. Earlier this month, it started a randomized trial in which severely ill coronavirus patients were treated with Calquence, a Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor normally used to treat blood cancer patients.

Some COVID-19 patients experience an immune-system response so frenzied that their body's efforts to fight off the virus become more dangerous to them than the virus itself. Calquence assists leukemia and lymphoma patients by limiting out-of-control immune cell activity, which could also be helpful for patients having severe reactions to the coronavirus.