Report: Drug to combat coronavirus shows promise in ongoing clinical trial

The search for coronavirus treatments has grown more urgent as Americans hope to soon end lockdowns that have devastated the economy. But some good news has just been confirmed on that front.

The drug remdesivir is showing promise in a clinical trial in Chicago, which found that severely ill patients had “rapid recoveries” and were discharged in just days, according to STAT News, which reported the results of an ongoing study.

Fever curves falling

Along with hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir was mentioned early on — and advocated by President Donald Trump — as a possible cure for the coronavirus. Gilead, the company that makes remdesivir, is conducting highly-anticipated Phase 3 studies of the drug to study its effectiveness on patients with severe and moderate cases with COVID-19, STAT notes, including 152 different trials of 2,400 participants with severe symptoms.

One of those trials, which is not yet complete, is being conducted at the University of Chicago Medicine, which recruited 125 patients, including 113 patients with severe symptoms. According to STAT, “nearly all patients” were discharged in a week, although two had died. That’s according to a leaked video of the head researcher discussing the trial.

The University of Chicago Medicine told STAT that the results are premature and therefore not scientifically valid. But they did sound promising. In the video, the researcher described what sounds like very positive results, although she said the lack of a placebo as a control made it harder to judge.

“It’s always hard,” Kathleen Mullane, the University of Chicago infectious disease specialist overseeing the studies, said, according to STAT. “But certainly when we start [the] drug, we see fever curves falling,” she added. “Fever is now not a requirement for people to go on trial, we do see when patients do come in with high fevers, they do [reduce] quite quickly. We have seen people come off ventilators a day after starting therapy. So, in that realm, overall our patients have done very well.”

Shares in Gilead leaped on Thursday and Friday after the results were leaked, according to CNBC. The full results of the trial are expected at the end of April, Reuters reported.

Finding the game-changer

The encouraging news comes as America looks to open up an economy that has been devastated by dramatic lockdowns. With a vaccine as far as 18 months away, and no current official treatments for the virus, Americans are increasingly desperate for an effective drug therapy.

Many governors have said that widespread testing and tracking systems are needed before it’s safe to open the economy, but some states may begin reopening soon after President Trump unveiled federal guidelines Thursday for states to ease lockdowns in three phases, Fox News reports, although states will follow their own discretion. As of this week, at least 22 million Americans have lost their jobs, largely in light of “stay-at-home” orders put in place, according to The Washington Post.

According to STAT, the leaked results are just the first peek into Gilead’s studies. But other studies — also not yet done — have shown promise, like a paper from The New England Journal of Medicine that found that the drug was effective on two-thirds of severely ill patients, Reuters reported.

Another drug being looked at is hydroxychloroquine, the therapy that Trump famously called a “game-changer.” While the jury is still out — and it has had some dangerous side effects in some instances — there have been scattered reports of the drug saving lives.

But could remdesivir be the real game-changer? Only time will tell.

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