Coronavirus medicine remdesivir just got its most important endorsement yet

"Two earlier studies, one of which is published in The Lancet done in Wuhan, didn't show any impact of the drug and neither did the other one".

A summary of results posted on the website of the World Health Organisation last week showed it failed in a smaller Chinese trial.

The results add to the growing body of data suggesting remdesivir may be effective for treating COVID-19.

The next step is to examine combining remdesivir with other drugs, like an anti-inflammatory drug, to see how they compare to using remdesivir alone.

However, the trial failed to convincingly show that remdesivir boosted survival in people with Covid-19.

Remdesivir mimics a natural ingredient called adenosine of DNA and RNA, the latter being a molecule similar to DNA that is used to carry the genetic information of viruses.

And because the drug has limited efficacy and likely works best before the infection gets too serious, "its availability is not going to move the needle on social distancing relaxation", tweeted Peter Bach, a physician and drug researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering. "They work by slowly preventing the virus from making more of itself".

Mehta also noted that remdesivir isn't a cure-all.

Remdesivir is a broad-spectrum antiviral that has shown promise in fighting many different unsafe viruses, including the COVID-19 coronavirus, MERS and SARS, Gilead said.

Treating COVID-19 patients with the experimental drug remdesivir failed to speed the rate of recovery or reduce deaths compared with placebo trials for patients, a study from United Kingdom medical journal The Lancet revealed. According to a new report, the FDA will give the green light for hospitals to treat patients in severe condition. Eight percent of remdesivir patients died during the trial versus 11 percent in the placebo group.

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However, as trials continue at hospital across the country, those fighting the outbreak cuation more research is necessary. "It just puts us in a very hard position when you have one of the world's most high-profile physicians saying this will be the standard of care", said Bogoch.

The bottom line: This near-constant back-and-forth over remdesivir reinforces how strong the science and data need to be for any treatment, or for the world's best hope: a vaccine.

For Anthony Fauci, who leads the NIAID and has been one of the government's point people during the crisis, "the data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery". But the findings are yet to be peer-reviewed.

It showed early promise in a primate study in 2016 and was later rolled out for a major trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it was compared against three other medicines. "And all of the other trials that are taking place now have a new standard of care". One of these studies is created to test remdesivir in people with moderate disease, and the other in those with more severe disease.

These types of studies can reduce some biases that can influence studies, but also help quantify the effectiveness of the drug.

The study also revealed why hydroxychloroquine is often found to have toxic effects on the heart.

The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci leads, and which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

'We were looking for a win, ' said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, but he tempered that optimism by pointing out the need to have a look at all the data and determine how remdesivir can be used. The authors acknowledge further study is needed in more seriously ill patients and with a larger sample size.

As you read this, there are scores, if not hundreds of trials under way worldwide for new treatments for Covid-19.

News that an experimental drug seems to be the first effective treatment for the new coronavirus has unleashed a flurry of interest - and a clamor to know how soon it might be available.

  • Delia Davidson