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Intermountain Healthcare joins national blood thinners study, needs hundreds of volunteers

(Spencer Moore with University of Utah Health, gathering a saliva sample at a testing center at Rice Eccles Stadium. Credit: Steve Griffin, Deseret News, Nov. 30, 2020)

MURRAY, UT — Could blood thinners help prevent minor symptoms of COVID-19 from getting much worse?  Intermountain Healthcare researchers are joining a nationwide study that poses that question, and they are looking for hundreds of test subjects.

Researchers say there is a lot of work already being done which are investigating the symptoms of COVID-19.  However, most of those studies are focusing on the sickest of the sick.

“This study is unique because it focuses on patients who have never been admitted to a hospital,” said Dr. Sarah Majercik, a trauma surgeon with Intermountain Healthcare.

Why blood thinners might work

Doctors say microscopic blood clots in people who catch the virus may be partly to blame for their long-term symptoms.  These clots inhibit blood flow, and may lead to heart damage or neurological problems in seemingly healthy people.

“Some of the long-term complications that we’re hearing about, where people were previously healthy that continue to have longer pulmonary problems months and months down the road, may be because of these tiny blood clots,” Majercik said.

Researchers are looking for people who are between the ages of 40 and 80, and who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 but weren’t severe enough to be hospitalized.  In order to qualify, the patient has to have been diagnosed with the virus within two weeks of applying for the study.  Emergency Medicine Director of Research Joseph Bledsoe says they want to know if blood-thinning medications will have more potency if they catch the virus early.

“In many ways, a lot of COVID therapeutics that we’ve looked at tend to be more effective if you initiate them earlier in the process to help combat that inflammation before it ramps up and really gets started,” Bledsoe said.

What the study will entail

The research team needs 700 people to take part in this study. Participants will receive either aspirin, a placebo, or a drug called Apixaban which is already used to treat blood clots in legs. Apixaban is also used by patients who have knee or hip replacement surgeries.  The test subjects won’t be told which of these medications they’re taking.

“This is one of the first national NIH-[National Institutes of Health]  funded trials that allows us to enroll patients earlier in the disease course,” Bledsoe said.

However, doctors warn that people should not use blood-thinning medications on their own.  Bledsoe says many people used hydroxychloroquine after it was reported it may help COVID-19 patients, and many of those people damaged their own bodies.

Those who wish to take part in the study should email the Intermountain clinical investigators at COVIDOutpatientTrials@imail.org.


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States