COVID-19 Victims on Remdesivir Treatment Hopeful after First US Patient Recovers
By Ruchi Jhonsa, Ph.D.
Since the first cluster of COVID-19 cases detected in Wuhan, the number of people affected by the novel coronavirus has crossed the figure of one hundred thousand, globally. This led to an official declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization yesterday. In the absence of any established treatments, several drugmakers have geared up to develop a vaccine or treatment for the rapidly spreading disease. Amongst all, only one looks promising so far and that is Gilead’s remdesivir, a failed Ebola drug.
While the trials are ongoing for the drug in China and the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Robert Redfield declared that Gilead’s coronavirus treatment is already being used in Washington State where the virus has caused the maximum fatality. According to him, remdesivir will be made available to a small number of patients with severe COVID-19 on a compassionate basis prior to any marketing approval. Compassionate use is a treatment option that allows any person with a serious disease or condition or whose life is immediately threatened by the disease to access the experimental drug while it is still under review by the medical agencies. The drug can be obtained from Gilead upon filing a request with the FDA.
Since the drug failed in Ebola trials, it is too early to say whether it will work in COVID-19 patients. But some scientists agree that remdesivir is the most promising candidate so far looking at preclinical data where remdesivir could clear two other infections by deadly coronaviruses, SARS and MERS. Topping the preclinical data is the real-life data that showed the full recovery of the very first US patient, a 35 years old man in Washington after treatment with remdesivir. Although it calls for celebration, the actual clinical data that confirms remdesivir’s role in recovery is yet to come.
The drug is currently being evaluated in two trials, one in China, which began in February and another in the US. The company is due to report the results of the clinical trial next month. Another set of trials will be launched this month in countries with high numbers of COVID-19 patients that will evaluate the effect of two different doses of the drug and is expected to report as early as May. But with hundreds of clinical trials ongoing for several other drugs, it is getting difficult for Gilead to recruit people causing a delay in the results.
All looks positive for remdesivir so far but only time will tell whether it will be effective widely.
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