Remdesvir was initially developed by Gilead as a potential treatment for Ebola; however, it failed to treat the disease, which causes severe bleeding and organ failure. The drug has been experimentally shown to be effective at inhibiting the growth of coronaviruses that cause illnesses similar to COVID-19, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) April 29, 2020
The institute is led by Anthony Fauci, one of the leading doctors assigned to the White House Coronavirus Task Force. During a Wednesday meeting in the Oval Office, Fauci indicated that the drug trial showed that remdesivir has had a significant effect on reducing coronavirus symptoms.
"The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery," Fauci said.
The trial involved around 1,090 people and showed that the drug decreased recovery time from 15 to 11 days.
"Although a 31% improvement doesn't seem like a knockout 100%, it is very important proof of concept, because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” Fauci added.
On Wednesday, former US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that that remdesivir is probably not a “home run” treatment for the novel coronavirus, but can help alleviate symptoms. Gilead shares surged by 6.5% in midday trading following the news.
“It’s not going to be a cure, but it is going to be a drug potentially that if you use it particularly early in the course of a disease - you hang it in the emergency room when someone comes in with COVID, especially someone with risk factors that predict they’ll have a worse outcome from the disease - it could reduce their chances of having a really bad outcome,” he said in a statement to CNBC.
The latest updates comes after the Financial Times reported last Thursday, citing a draft document accidentally published by the World Health Organization (WHO), that remdesivir had failed its first clinical trial as a coronavirus treatment.
According to the Times, the Chinese trial indicated that remdesivir did not improve patients’ conditions or decrease the amount of COVID-19 in their bloodstreams. Out of a group of 237 patients, 158 were given the drug, while the remaining 79 were part of the control group. Eighteen patients who received the drug experienced adverse side effects and had to stop taking it.
The WHO said that the draft document obtained by the Financial Times was published early by mistake, and Gilead said that the study had ended due to “low enrollment,” which made it “underpowered to enable statistically meaningful conclusions.”
Remdesivir has shown promising results when used to treat COVID-19 patients in Chicago, Illinois. The drug reduced fevers and other respiratory symptoms in 125 patients in under a week.
A study published earlier this month in the New England Journal of Medicine also showed positive results for remdesivir. Sixty-eight percent of coronavirus patients in the study improved while on the drug. However, the study was not a clinical trial, but rather a compilation of data from patients who have been given the drug. There was no control group, and the researchers behind the study warned that no conclusive results could be drawn from it regarding remdesivir’s effectiveness against COVID-19.