VA is a leader in medical research that helps Veterans and all Americans. We’re also part of the national research effort to find treatments for COVID-19.
One reason VA is so good at research is the willingness of Veterans to step up and be part of it. For example, in 2005, VA was responsible for the study that led to the first shingles vaccine. This was possible only because of Veterans’ continued commitment to serve: more than 36,000 former service members participated in that study.
Today, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, VA has quickly launched a number of research projects to investigate potential treatments.
Reducing male hormones to protect male Veterans
One study is looking at whether the prostate cancer drug degarelix might work as a COVID-19 treatment for male Veterans. Degarelix reduces androgens—male hormones—and an earlier study in Italy found that men on androgen-reducing drugs were less likely to get COVID-19. VA is conducting this study in partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Can plasma from recovered patients help?
For another study, VA is working with the Mayo Clinic to learn whether convalescent plasma—the liquid part of blood from people who have recovered from COVID-19—can help treat severely ill patients. By early June, more than 250 Veterans at over 80 VA locations had received a transfusion of this convalescent plasma. For each of these patients, there was a willing donor—a person who had recovered from COVID-19 and donated their plasma.
Testing in VA community living centers
Meanwhile, VA is looking at how to better protect and care for our most vulnerable Veterans, including residents of VA community living centers.
Researchers at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System found that universal testing for COVID-19 in a community living center identified people who had the virus but didn’t have symptoms – and who might have infected others without knowing it. Staff were able to reduce the spread of the disease by rapidly isolating infected residents and staff members.
Partnering with NIH
VA is also ready to play a key role in ACTIV, a new initiative from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that aims to accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and treatments. VA is a “tier-one partner,” meaning we are a preferred collaborator for clinical trials.
These are just a few of the COVID-19 VA studies and partnerships to help scientists make discoveries that will save lives. We could not do it without the help and support of Veterans.
Dr. Rachel Ramoni is the chief research and development officer for VA’s Office of Research and Development. She is responsible for developing and executing the strategy for VA’s research enterprise, which encompasses more than 3,600 active researchers at 105 research facilities across the U.S.