Remdesivir, an antiviral originally developed for Ebola treatment, has shown positive results in the fight against COVID-19. To be specific, it has cut the median recovery time from 15 days to 11 days.
The virus which has already affected millions of people and claimed the lives of over 200,000 people could be treated by the antiviral, although it failed in previous trials against Ebola.
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) ran the trial consisting of 1,063 people divided into two groups. One group was given the drug while the other was given placebo treatment.
The trial began on February 21 and was administered across 68 locations in U.S., Asia, and Europe.
Although full details have not been released, we do know that the mortality rate in patients who were given remdesivir and placebos are 11.6% and 8%, simultaneously.
However, scientists cannot verify is this difference is due to a significant cause.
Prof Babak Javid, a consultant in infectious diseases at Cambridge University Hospitals, said that although “data [is] promising”, remdesivir would not be a “magic bullet”.
The drug would, of course, provide a two-fold benefit of saving lives while lifting the lockdown at the same time. Additionally, it would reduce the pressure on hospitals’ capacity to hold a large number of patients.
Several questions on Remdesivir still needs to be answered by experts.
Will the drug work better for older or younger people or for those who already have some other diseases? Also, Will, it prevents people from needing intensive care?
Hopefully, we will receive the answers to these, and many more questions once the full details are published. Even then, however, there are extra steps to be taken.
The drug, along with its data and results, would need to be reviewed, assessed, and licensed to become available on a wide scale.
A previous experiment proved the remdisivir drug to be ineffective. The said experiment was conducted in Wuhan with 237 patients and found no positive effects.
However, the trial was done on a very small basis as doctors ran out of patients to test due to the success of lockdown in Wuhan. Anthony Fauci, who leads the NIAID, called this an inadequate study.
The U.S laboratory that manufactures remdisivir, Gilead Sciences, made announcements that they plan to donate the doses they have in stock. This would be enough to treat 140,000 patients.
After that step, Daniel O’Day, the CEO of the company said they would then sell the drug at an “affordable” price.
The drug belongs to a class of drugs that doesn’t just control the symptoms and autoimmune responses caused the virus. Remdisivir acts on the virus directly.
Recovery time was 30% faster compared to patients given a placebo possibly due to this very reason.
Other than remdisivir, drugs that are being investigated for COVID-19 include those which can attack the virus as well as compounds that can calm the immune system. These include the drugs usually given for malaria and HIV.