12:56 GMT28 July 2021
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    American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences on Friday announced that recent analysis of its antiviral drug remdesivir reduced the risk of death for severely ill COVID-19 patients by 62% compared with standard care alone.

    According to a July 10 news release, the analysis, which will be presented at the Virtual COVID-19 Conference on July 10 and 11, suggests remdesivir is linked to a “significantly improved clinical recovery” in very sick COVID-19 patients.

    The study was based on 312 patients enrolled in a phase three trial. The patients’ results were compared to those of 818 patients in a “real-world retrospective cohort” who had comparable disease severity as the trial participants were receiving just standard care during the same time that the phase three trial was taking place.

    “This comparative analysis provides valuable additional information regarding the benefit of remdesivir compared with standard of care alone,” Dr. Susan Olender of Columbia University Irving Medical Center is quoted as saying in the news release. 

    “While not as vigorous as a randomized controlled trial, this analysis importantly draws from a real-world setting and serves as an important adjunct to clinical trial data, adding to our collective understanding of this virus and reflecting the extraordinary pace of the ongoing pandemic.”

    The analysis also showed that only 7.6% of the patients given remdesivir had died by day 14 of treatment, compared to 12.5% of patients who did not not take the drug. In addition, the findings revealed that 74.4% of patients who took remdesivir recovered by day 14 of treatment, compared with 59% of people who only received standard care.

    However, Gilead also noted that additional analysis is necessary to fully understand how useful the drug is in COVID-19 treatment.

    “We are working to broaden our understanding of the full utility of remdesivir,” Gilead Chief Medical Officer Dr. Merdad Parsey said in the statement. “To address the urgency of the continuing pandemic, we are sharing data with the research community as quickly as possible with the goal of providing transparent and timely updates on new developments with remdesivir.”

    The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in April released an analysis on remdesivir that showed that COVID-19 patients who took the drug recovered four days faster than those who didn’t. However, the study did not find a statistically significant decrease in risk of death. 

    Remdesivir also showed promising results in April 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.

    In recent weeks, Gilead has been criticized after announcing that a five-day treatment of remdesivir could cost as much as $3,120 per patient.

    “In normal circumstances, we would price a medicine according to the value it provides. The first results from the NIAID study in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 showed that remdesivir shortened time to recovery by an average of four days. Taking the example of the United States, earlier hospital discharge would result in hospital savings of approximately $12,000 per patient,” Daniel O’Day, the company’s CEO, said in a June 29 open letter. 

    “We have decided to price remdesivir well below this value. To ensure broad and equitable access at a time of urgent global need, we have set a price for governments of developed countries of $390 per vial. Based on current treatment patterns, the vast majority of patients are expected to receive a 5-day treatment course using 6 vials of remdesivir, which equates to $2,340 per patient,” O’Day added.


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