Antiviral drug shows promise as a COVID-19 treatment: report

In a best-case scenario, a safe and widely-available vaccine for the new coronavirus is likely a year or two away, meaning that finding an effective treatment to manage infections is crucial if society is to return to some semblance of normalcy in the meantime.

While a number of innovative drug treatments are currently in the works, leaked clinical trial results for one particular drug show promise of being a game-changer in the fight against the coronavirus.

Clinical trial in Chicago

Remdesivir, an antiviral medication made by the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, is currently being tested on mild to severe COVID-19 patients in a number of clinical trials around the world.

Limited results of trials being conducted at the University of Chicago Medicine showed that, of 113 severe cases, only two patients died while the remainder rapidly recovered within only about six days, Stat News reported on Thursday. There were a total of 125 COVID-19 patients in two “phase three” clinical trials, 113 of whom were considered severe, and all of whom received daily transfusions of remdesivir.

Stat News obtained video of University of Chicago Medicine faculty members discussing the trial’s promising results. According to the report, infectious disease specialist Kathleen Mullane, who is overseeing the trial, said, “The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish.”

Though Mullane noted a few caveats like the lack of a placebo as a control in the trial, she did point out that patients saw their fevers reduced quickly and those on ventilators were removed from the machines within a day or two.

“Most of our patients are severe and most of them are leaving at six days, so that tells us duration of therapy doesn’t have to be 10 days. We have very few that went out to 10 days, maybe three,” Mullane reportedly said.

Still under study

Gilead, which had said previously that it would begin to release the results of the drug trials at some point in April, said in a statement, “What we can say at this stage is that we look forward to data from ongoing studies becoming available.”

Altogether, Gilead’s remdesivir trials include 2,400 severe patients in 152 different trial sites worldwide, with another 1,600 mild patients in 169 separate trials around the world, according to Stat News. Those trials are testing both five- and ten-day treatment courses, and are measuring a variety of different metrics to determine the efficacy of the drug and the best course of treatment.

Cautiously optimistic

Given the limited results thus far and the lack of a control group in the trials, it’s too early to know for sure whether this particular drug is the answer to the pandemic.

That said, the news is welcome — and the stock market reflected that on Thursday as the share price of Gilead Sciences, Inc. soared, along with the Dow, which closed at its highest point since March 10.

“Remdesivir sounds like something that can get people out of hospitals quickly,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Thursday. “That allows our economy to have a fighting chance … I think that remdesivir would cut the morbidity … which would change how quickly we can open … and what we can do.”

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