By Stephanie Stahl


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A promising COVID-19 treatment that’s already been given to some patients, is now officially being tested in Philadelphia. One of the first local patients to get the medication is now home after being on a ventilator for more than two weeks.

“I think I’m still processing everything, but I’ll tell you, it’s great to be home,” Mike DeWan said.

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DeWan was the first COVID-19 patient admitted at Penn Presbyterian where he spent 17 days on a ventilator.

“The lung doctor came in and said, ‘This x-ray looks bad.’ I’m like, ‘Bad? I’m 43 years old, I don’t smoke, I don’t do nothing.’ And he said, ‘This will get worse before it gets better.'”

DeWan’s whole family ended up getting the virus but his was the most serious case.

“He’s like, ‘Was there ever a time you thought that I wasn’t going to make it?’ And I said, ‘Yes, there was,'” wife Kelley DeWan said.

Penn doctors treated Mike DeWan with an antiviral medication called Remdesivir, which was originally developed to treat Ebola.

“The drug is sort of a false building block and so it tricks the virus into incorporating into that and then it shuts down, making new copies of itself,” said Dr. William Short.

Short says the trial hadn’t started when he first saw DeWan, but he was able to give him the drug on a “compassionate use” basis.

“I don’t know if it was the drug that worked,” Short said. “He could have just gotten better on his own.”

Short says all the COVID-19 treatments are experimental, including the malaria drugs used for lupus.

“Everyone who comes in will be started on hydroxychloriquine and we also are starting a study looking at that too, because again, like all the rest of the drugs we’re talking about, there really is no great data out there on the use of them,” Short said. “We just do it because we think it has an impact, but we really don’t know.”

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The trial on the drug Remdesivir is being conducted by the National Institutes of Health, with 700 patients around the country, including 20 at Penn.

Results are expected in early May.

Stephanie Stahl