An antiviral called Remdesivir is the first drug to manifest effectiveness against the COVID-19.
First results from a clinical trial that compared the drug with a placebo say that Remdesivir prompts recovery from COVID-19 by 31 percent, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases indicated April 29 in a press statement.
The trial haphazardly assigned 1,063 people infected with COVID-19 to get syringic infusions of either Remdesivir or a placebo. In the Remdesivir set, the median duration to the recovery was 11 days, compared with 15 days for the ones on the placebo. Recovery was defined as being released from the hospital or being well enough to proceed with regular activity. Eleven percent of the patients in the placebo group past away, compared with only 8 percent in the Remdesivir’s.
“Although a 31 percent progress doesn’t seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is a significant proof of concept. It has proven that a drug can stop the virus,” Dr. Anthony Fauci stated on April 29 in a press meeting at the White House.
Commonly, researchers would have held to announce anything until peer scientists had reviewed the results, but the team chose to announce it early, Dr. Fauci said. “Whenever you have evidence that a drug works, you have an ethical obligation to immediately let the people who are in the placebo set know so that they can have access.”
Remdesivir will be the standard of care by which other remedies are judged, Fauci said. The experiment will be adapted to add to the Remdesivir treatment an antibody that may defend against inflammation.
Remdesivir, produced by biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, headquartered in Foster City, California, simulates a building block of RNA, the virus’s genetic material. When the virus copies its RNA, the drug is incorporated instead of the usual RNA components, blocking the virus’s replication.
In studies in animals, Remdesivir has been very powerful against a broad family of RNA-containing viruses, including the ones that cause MERS and SARS. “It’s passed every single milestone. It works against each coronavirus we’ve tested,” states Mark Denison, a virologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Remdesivir has been effective in animal researches when presented early in infections, Denison says. The drug can prevent or slow viral reproduction but doesn’t stop the body’s overzealous immune system responses that cause more damage to many seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
If the drug can be introduced early in the infection, then people might never become ill enough to have a need to go to the hospital. “You [could] convert this from being a fatal condition to being a manageable, survivable condition,” Denison says.
Gilead additionally presented the results of a second Remdesivir experiment on April 29. That study compared a five-day course of Remdesivir with 10 days of therapy. There was no control group that didn’t get the drug. It took 10 days for half of the people on the shorter course of Remdesivir to have clinical enhancement compared with 11 days for those in the longer treatment group.
“The study shows the potential for some patients to be treated with a 5-day regimen, which could significantly increase the number of patients who could be treated with our current amount of Remdesivir. This is especially significant in the setting of a pandemic to support hospitals, and health care workers treat more patients in vital need of care,” the firm stated in a news release.
Of the 200 patients in the five-day treatment group, 129 went home from the hospital by day 14, while 106 of the 197 patients who got the longer treatment were released by day 14.
Treating earlier was also profitable. Sixty-two percent of the patients who got treatment within 10 days of their symptoms starting were ready to go home after two weeks in the hospital, yet only 49 percent of those who got treatment later in the infection were released after two weeks in the hospital.