Coronavirus blood test vial.

European ED Drug May Be Used to Help COVID-19 Patients

Aviptadil, used in Europe as a key ingredient in an injectable erectile dysfunction medication, is being tested for potential use as a treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome, responsible for most COVID-19 deaths.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world, medical scientists are scrambling to find existing medications that might ease the symptoms of the virus, especially in those patients who’ve been hardest hit.

Among the candidates getting the greatest buzz thus far have been hydroxychloroquine, a malaria treatment, and remdesivir, a powerful antiviral drug that was used experimentally in the fight against the Ebola virus.

A New Candidate Emerges

As clinical trials are hastily put together to test the efficacy and safety of these drugs as COVID-19 treatments, another unlikely candidate has emerged from Europe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union’s European Medicines Agency recently approved investigational clinical trials of Aviptadil (also code-named RLF-100) as a possible treatment for the acute respiratory symptoms of COVID-19.

What’s Aviptadil?

Aviptadil is a drug that’s been used in Europe in combination with phentolamine as an injectable erectile dysfunction drug. In the combination ED drug, sold under the brand name Invicorp, phentolamine increases blood flow to the penis, facilitating erection, while Aviptadil temporarily traps the blood in the penis to sustain the erection.

According to Relief Therapeutics Holding SA, the patent holder, Aviptadil or RLF-100 is a synthetic analog of Vasoactive Intestinal Polypeptide, “a naturally-occurring peptide hormone that is known to be concentrated in the lungs.”

Beyond its value as an ED medication, Aviptadil has been shown to have powerful antiviral and anti-cytokine properties in the lungs, making it a promising treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS. It is ARDS that’s responsible for the vast majority of deaths associated with COVID-19. In those suffering from ARDS, the lungs fill with fluid, leading to a mortality rate of 50 percent or higher.

Israelis Also Conducting Trials

Medical scientists in Israel are also eager to see how Aviptadil might help to reduce the death rate associated with COVID-19 infection, according to an article posted at Compassionate care protocol testing is being conducted at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa.

Of the Israeli trials, Rambam CEO Michael Halberthal, M.D., said, “We believe that RLF-100 has a chance to be a safe and effective treatment for ARDS in patients infected by COVID-19, who otherwise have less than 50 percent chance of survival, despite intensive care.”

Tested in five different animal species models of ARDS and acute lung injury, Aviptadil has shown impressive effects, demonstrating its potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cytokine properties.

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