VU Researcher Casts Wide Net to Fund H1N1 Statin Study

A critical care researcher at Vanderbilt has put out an open call for funding. While researchers are always looking for grants, the open call is an unusual move. He believes cholesterol lowering drugs could save the lives of people who become critically ill with the H1N1 flu.

Roughly 20% of patients who show up to the intensive care unit with H1N1 have died, says Dr. Gordon Bernard. He believes taking a regimen of statins could save as many as half of the critically ill patients. It’s a different use for cholesterol drugs that’s shown some promise, but there have been few clinical trials. Bernard says seasonal flu patients are usually too hard to find.

“Problem is the regular flu just doesn’t put people in the ICU with the regularity that H1N1 does.”

The window of opportunity is closing as the wave of H1N1 infections subsides. And Bernard says he needs more than $3 million to properly test his theory.

AstraZeneca has agreed to donate its drug called Crestor for the study. However, the drug maker turned Bernard down for the more than $3 million needed to conduct the research, likely, he says, because the use holds little sales potential.

“It’s still a trivial amount of drug needed during that three or four week period the patient’s in the hospital, compared to selling a prescription to a 45 year old who is going to take it every day for the rest of their lives.”

Bernard says the Gates Foundation turned him down as well and the process for getting a grant from the National Institutes of Health would take too long.

Bernard has already started signing patients up for the clinical trial at Vanderbilt. However, he needs more than a hundred hospitals participating to build a base of more than 2,000 patients.

Blake Farmer

Blake Farmer is WPLN's assistant news director, but he wears many hats - reporter, editor and host. He covers the Tennessee state capitol while also keeping an eye on Fort Campbell and business trends, frequently contributing to national programs. Born in Tennessee and educated in Texas, Blake has called Nashville home for most of his life.
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