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Remdesivir trial shows Covid-19 patients recover faster, could be first effective drug

The US trial looked at whether Gilead’s remdesivir helped people with Covid-19 recover faster than without it.

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New York/London: Gilead Sciences Inc.’s experimental drug to treat coronavirus helped patients recover faster than standard care, the company said, offering hope for what could be the first effective treatment for the illness that has swept the world.

A trial being run by the U.S.’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases looked at whether Gilead’s remdesivir helped people with Covid-19 recover faster than without it. Details are expected to be released later, the company said in a statement.

Gilead shares jumped as much as 7.1% in trading Wednesday. The news appeared to lift the entire U.S. stock market as well, with the S&P 500 rising 1.7% despite data showing a deep contraction in the U.S. economy in the first quarter of the year.

Remdesivir has been one of the most-watched potential coronavirus therapies. Without a vaccine available, governments are seeking a therapy that can help patients recover faster and reduce the risk posed by the virus, which in patients with the most severe cases can lead to respiratory failure and death.

Multiple trials of the drug are being conducted, and it remains to be seen how much it helped patients. The trial measured how quickly patients no longer needed supplemental oxygen therapy or were discharged from the hospital. It’s not known yet how large the effect of the Gilead drug was on the patients, and if it will make a meaningful difference in their care.

The trial, run by the National Institutes of Health, aimed to sign up about 800 patients to test the drug and give a definitive answer as to whether it can help treat the illness.

A NIAID representative declined to comment.

Gilead released more detailed results from another study the company has been conducting, comparing a five-day and 10-day course of the drug, but without a placebo group. The study showed both groups did about the same, suggesting that a shorter course of the drug might be about as effective as a long one. Results of the study weren’t statistically significant.

The five-day regimen “could significantly expand the number of patients who could be treated with our current supply of remdesivir,” said Merdad Parsey, Gilead’s chief medical officer.

The drug will likely be approved for use in certain settings on the basis of the positive result, said Jefferies health-care strategist Jared Holz, at least until better alternatives are available.“There is a massive bias to look at the data with half-glass-full approach,” he said, adding that it’s “totally fair given the current predicament.”

Remdesivir, which was originally developed to treat other coronaviruses like SARS and has also been tested on Ebola, isn’t licensed or approved for use anywhere in the world.

Last week, the World Health Organization prematurely and accidentally published negative results of another trial of remdesivir in China, retracting the results soon after. The WHO post showed that the antiviral didn’t help severely ill patients avoid death, and it also didn’t reduce the amount of virus in their bodies.

Gilead has said the WHO post included “inappropriate characterization of the study” and that there could still be potential benefits for patients who are treated early-on. -Bloomberg

Also read: 2 Indians join global remdesivir trial as the world pins its hopes on it to treat Covid-19


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