The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has a high burden of morbidity and mortality due to development of the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The reninangiotensin-system (RAS) plays an important role in the development of ARDS, with ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) being a key enzyme within this. The virus's spike protein binds to ACE2, facillitating cellular internalization. Downregulation of ACE2 results in the excessive accumulation of angiotensin II, which in turn increases pulmonary vascular permeability through stimulation of the angiotensin II type 1a receptor (AT1R), thereby exacerbating lung pathology associated with decreased ACE2 activity. Currently available AT1R blockers (ARBs) such as valsartan, have shown potential to block this pathological process mediated by angiotensin II.

The Focus
The primary aim of the PRAETORIAN-COVID trial is to investigate the effect of the ARB valsartan compared to placebo on the composite end point of admission to an intensive care unit, mechanical ventilation, or death of COVID-19 patients.

The Research
Participants receiving active treatment are administered valsartan at a dosage titrated to blood pressure, with a maximum of 160 mg twice daily. Participants receiving placebo are provided with a matching placebo. The treatment duration was 14 days or until reaching the primary endpoint, or until hospital discharge, if applicable within 14 days.Two complementary mechanisms underpin the potential efficacy of angiotensin II type 1 receptor blockers (ARBs) in preventing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and reducing morbidity and mortality:

  1. ARBs block excessive angiotensin-mediated activation of the AT1R.
  2. ARBs upregulate ACE2 expression, leading to reduced angiotensin II levels and increased production of the protective vasodilator angiotensin 1–7.

Given these mechanisms, ARBs show promise in preventing ARDS development, potentially reducing the need for intensive care unit (ICU) admission and mechanical ventilation, and ultimately lowering mortality rates associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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Digoxin is the oldest, market-authorized drug for heart failure (HF), and very cheap. A large trial with digoxin, the DIG trial, executed in the early nineties revealed a highly significant reduction in HF hospitalizations, but no effect on mortality. A post-hoc analysis of the DIG trial suggests that low serum concentrations of digoxin may not only improve HF hospitalizations but also mortality in chronic HF patients. To validate these findings, a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trial is required to redefine the role of digoxin in modern HF treatment. The Focus The primary objective of this study is to investigate whether low-level digoxin (targeting serum concentrations of 0.5-0.9 ng/mL), compared to a placebo, reduces (repeated) HF hospitalizations, (repeated) urgent HF hospital visits, and cardiovascular mortality when added to standard guideline-recommended therapies in chronic HF patients with reduced or mid-range ejection fractions (LVEF ≤50%). The Research This proposed trial is a national, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 982 chronic HF patients aged ≥18 years, classified as NYHA II to ambulatory IV, LVEF ≤50%, and specific serum NT-proBNP concentrations based on rhythm and recent HF hospitalization status. Patients must also be on guideline-recommended therapies. The study population includes at least one-third with atrial fibrillation (AF) and one-third women to represent the real-life HF population. Patients were randomized to receive either a low-level digoxin or a placebo in a double-blinded manner. Digoxin Teva will be administered orally, starting at doses of 0.2mg or 0.1mg (based on age, renal function, and concomitant medication). No loading dose is given to the placebo group. After 4 weeks of evaluating medication (digoxin or placebo), concentrations will be measured. Dose adjustments will be made if needed to reach the target serum digoxin concentration range of 0.5-0.9ng/mL. The outcomes in reducing adverse cardiovascular events in patients with chronic heart failure of low-dose digoxin will be compared to the outcomes of the placebo.
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