Trial drug in U.S. offers hope for patients

PATIENTS with advanced COVID-19 who received the experimental drug remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received placebo, according to preliminary trial data, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on Wednesday.

“The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” the institute’s director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN.

About 1,090 people participated in the trial internationally, Fauci said, calling it “the first truly high-powered randomised placebo-controlled trial.”

Preliminary data show remdesivir has improved recovery time for coronavirus patients from 15 to 11 days.

“Although a 31% improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100%, it is a very important proof of concept,” Fauci said, “because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”

He said the results are “opening the door to the fact that we now have the capability of treating” coronavirus.

Fauci also said the US Food and Drug Administration is working with Gilead Sciences, the maker of remdesivir, to make the drug available to those who need it.

The FDA has not yet approved any drugs for the treatment of the coronavirus but is trying to increase the availability of remdesivir.

“As part of the FDA’s commitment to expediting the development and availability of potential COVID-19 treatments, the agency has been engaged in sustained and ongoing discussions with Gilead Sciences regarding making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible, as appropriate,” FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said in a statement.

The World Health Organization said it’s too early to comment on the remdesivir trial results released yesterday.

“Typically, you don’t have one study that will come out that will be a game-changer,” said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for the coronavirus response.

She said the agency generally pulls together evidence from several studies before reviewing and critiquing the evidence.

“It can sometimes take a number of publications to determine (what) the ultimate impact of a drug is,” said Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program.

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