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Remdesivir: ‘Clear-cut’ results show Gilead drug can fight coronavirus

Remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug, will become the standard of care for Covid-19, the top US infectious disease official said, after early results from a key clinical trial on Wednesday showed it helped patients recover more quickly from the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Preliminary results from a US government trial showing that patients given remdesivir recovered 31% faster than those given a placebo, were hailed by Dr Anthony Fauci as “highly significant.”

“This is really quite important,” Dr Fauci told reporters at the White House, likening it to a moment in 1986 “when we were struggling for drugs for HIV and we had nothing.”

“This will be the standard of care,” he said. “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.”

“I want them to go as quickly as they can,” President Donald Trump said, when asked if he wanted the FDA to grant emergency use authorisation for remdesivir. “We want everything to be safe, but we would like to see very quick approvals, especially with things that work.”

The closely watched drug, given by intravenous infusion to hospitalised patients, has moved markets in the past few weeks following the release of data from several studies that painted a mixed picture of its effectiveness, and Dr Fauci cautioned that the latest data still needs to be analysed.

Gilead’s shares rose more than 5% on Wednesday to close at $83.14 and are up 27% so far this year. The Dow closed up 500 points.

Doctors on the front lines of the Covid-19 battle have been eager for results from the NIH study because it is a large trial in which patients were randomised to treatment with the drug or a placebo without participants or doctors knowing which group they were in – the gold standard for clinical trials.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, said partial results from its 1,063-patient trial show that hospitalised Covid-19 patients given remdesivir recovered in 11 days, compared to 15 days for patients given a placebo.

The study showed a trend towards better survival for remdesivir – 8% of patients given the drug died compared with 11.6% in the placebo group – but the difference was not statistically significant so may not be due to Gilead’s drug.

The pharmaceutical company began working on remdesivir in the 2000s amid growing concerns that an untreatable global pandemic was looming.

The drug to cure an unknown “Disease X” is a broad-spectrum antiviral that has been demonstrated in animal models against the Mers and Sars viruses, which are also coronaviruses. 

In 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed “Disease X” on its shortlist of priority diseases to refer to a hypothetical, unknown pathogen that could cause a future pandemic.

Source: The Telegraph

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