A reformulated generic drug could help reduce the worst effects of COVID-19 in patients, according to its maker. And it could be made available by the end of this year.

Health Canada recently announced that it has granted Pulmonem Inc., a Canadian biotech start-up and maker of the generic drug, Dapsone, approval to run a Phase III randomized clinical trial to see if the drug could help those suffering from COVID-19.

In other words, there’s a basic old Canadian pill that may make COVID-19 not quite as bad. Big, if true. 

According to a Pulmonem Inc. press release, the trials will determine whether Dapsone can be used as an early treatment to “reduce or even prevent the development of severe pulmonary inflammation caused by COVID-19 infection, preventing the excessive immune reaction that is the most frequent cause of worsening symptoms and complications which led to hospital admissions, ICU stays, and fatalities.”

Not a vaccine, Dapsone has been used for decades as an anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulator and anti-bacterial treatment for things like HIV, lupus, and malaria. By reformulating the medication, its makers are hoping it will reduce inflammation amongst patients and accelerate the approval of the treatment. If it works, it could be available by the end of the year.

"Our foundation is determined to help the scientific community find a cure for COVID-19 and end this pandemic,” reads the release. “Studying the efficacy of Dapsone on patients with severe respiratory distress syndrome caused by COVID-19 is an important step in saving lives in Canada and around the world."

Pulmonem has received sponsorship from the McGill University Health Centre and will execute the clinical trials in seven centres in Canada and the United States just as soon as they’ve raised enough money, which could be as early as next month.  

If approved, the reformulated Dapsone will join treatments like the antiviral drug remdesivir, which is already being administered to COVID patients in Canada and around the world.