Fresh hope for coronavirus treatment as anti-Ebola drug shows early signs it may be effective in fighting Covid-19
- Gilead Sciences’ drug remdesivir was originally developed for ebola crisis
- Has been tested on a trial group of 53 severely ill coronavirus patients
- Scientists say the condition of more than half improved but seven patients died
- However there was no comparison group so effectiveness of drug is unknown
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
An antiviral drug developed in the fight against ebola has shown promising first signs it could be used to treat coronavirus following a small trial.
More than half of a group of severely ill COVID-19 patients improved after receiving Gilead’s experimental drug remdesivir, doctors reported.
However, there is no way to know the odds of the drug’s effectiveness because there was no comparison group in the trial of 53 people.
The results published by the New England Journal of Medicine are the first in Covid-19 patients for remdesivir.
More than half of a group of severely ill COVID-19 patients improved after receiving Gilead’s experimental drug remdesivir, doctors reported
The Gilead Sciences drug has shown promise against other coronaviruses in the past and in lab tests against the one causing the current pandemic, which now has claimed more than 100,000 lives.
No drugs are approved now for treating the disease.
At least five large studies are testing remdesivir, and the company also has given it to more than 1,700 patients on a case-by-case emergency basis.
Friday’s results are on 53 of those patients, ages 23 to 82, admitted to hospital in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan.
Thirty-four of them were sick enough to require breathing machines.
The results published by the New England Journal of Medicine are the first in Covid-19 patients for remdesivir
All were given the drug through an IV for 10 days or as long as they tolerated it.
After 18 days on average, 36 patients, or 68%, needed less oxygen or breathing machine support. Eight others worsened.
Seven patients died, nearly all of them over age 70. That 13% mortality rate is lower than seen in some other reports, but no true comparisons can be made without a study rigorously testing the drug in similar groups of patients, the authors noted.
A dozen patients had serious problems but it was not clear whether they were from the drug or their disease.
Those included septic shock and trouble with kidneys and other organs. Four discontinued treatment because of health problems they developed.
‘It looks encouraging,’ said Dr Elizabeth Hohmann, an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital who is helping lead one of the studies testing the drug.
The problems that occurred were not unexpected given the disease, she said.
Dr Derek Angus, critical care chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre who was not involved with the research, said the recovery rate is good but ‘there is no way of knowing from this series if remdesivir was helpful’.
Results from more rigorous studies are expected by the end of this month.