Doctors treat Covid-19 patients in an intensive care unit at a Hospital in Rome, Italy | Bloomberg
Doctors treat Covid-19 patients in an intensive care unit at a Hospital in Rome, Italy (Representational image) | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: Experimental antiviral drug remdesivir reduces recovery time for Covid-19 patients in comparison with standard treatment, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has said.

Standard treatment is the routine care of patients without any drug administration.

In the study published Friday, a preliminary analysis of the most sought-after-drug found that remdesivir reduced the recovery time from 11 days against 15 days on placebo. A 10-day course of the drug in one group was found to be “superior” against placebo in another. Placebo is a dummy pill, which means no drug was administered.

The drug was most beneficial for patients who required supplemental oxygen during hospitalisation, the study found.

It also reduced the death rate to 7 per cent against 12 per cent in the group which was not taking any medicine. This means that remdesivir did not reduce the mortality rate significantly.

Given the high mortality despite the use of remdesivir, the study said, “It is clear that treatment with an antiviral drug alone is not likely to be sufficient. Future strategies should evaluate antiviral agents in combination with other therapeutic approaches or combinations of antiviral agents to continue to improve patient outcomes in Covid-19.”

The study is peer-reviewed, a process under which it is evaluated by others working in the same field. This makes the study more reliable.

Also read: Govt apologises for ‘misconception’ month after graph said India to halt Covid spread by May

How was the study conducted?

Titled Remdesivir for the Treatment of Covid-19 — Preliminary Report, the study shared findings based on an analysis of 1,059 participants, out of which 538 received remdesivir and 521 received placebo.

Patients were admitted at 60 trial sites and 13 subsites in the US (45), Denmark (8), the United Kingdom (5), Greece (4), Germany (3), Korea (2), Mexico (2), Spain (2), Japan (1), and Singapore (1), said the study. They provided consent to participate in the double-blinded trial, under which neither investigators nor participants knew who was receiving remdesivir.

Patients in one group were randomly assigned to receive standard care and a 10-day course of the intravenous drug. The other group received standard care and a placebo.

Sponsored by the top US public health authority, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the study defined recovery as being discharged from the hospital or being medically stable enough to be discharged from the hospital.

“The median time to recovery was 11 days for patients treated with remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who received placebo,” study said.

Clinicians tracked patients’ clinical status daily using an eight-point ordinal scale, ranging from fully recovered to death. “Investigators also compared clinical status between the study arms on day 15 and found that the odds of improvement in the ordinal scale were higher in the remdesivir arm than in the placebo arm,” said the study.

Also read: US govt body now says Covid doesn’t spread as easily from contaminated surfaces or animals

Anthony Fauci on recovery

The results of the trial were made public on 29 April when it was still ‘ongoing’. At the time, top US infectious diseases expert and NIAID director Anthony Fauci had shared some of the findings while addressing the media at the White House.

“The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” he had said. Talking about the trial, he had said there were indications the drug led to fewer deaths, but added that this part of the analysis is still under review.

The study said, “Given the strength of the results about remdesivir, these findings were deemed to be of immediate importance for the care of patients still participating in the trial as well as for those outside the trial who might benefit from treatment with remdesivir.”

Also read: Hetero Labs in Hyderabad seeks nod from govt to market remdesivir, a potential Covid drug


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