More than half of life threateningly ill coronavirus patients went from relying on oxygen to being discharged from hospital within two weeks after being treated with Ebola drug remdesivir, trial results reveal
- Gilead Sciences treated 200 severely ill coronavirus patients with its Ebola antiviral remdesivir
- Regardless of whether they were treated for five or 10 days, more than half of the patients were discharged from the hospital within 14 days
- Leaked data from the WHO suggested last week that the drug had ‘failed’
- Gilead’s phase 3 trial suggests the drug could help fight the infection in patients who can’t breathe on their own, but it is not yet approved
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
A trial of the antiviral drug remesivir has resulted ‘positive data’ for treating coronavirus patients, its maker, Gilead Sciences, said Wednesday.
Gilead was expected this week to announce the results of a clinical trial testing the drug, which was originally developed to treat Ebola patients, in people severely ill with coronavirus.
Half of the patients improved within 10 days of a five-day treatment course and those who were on a 10-day regimen were better by the eleventh day.
More than half of the patients were discharged from the hospital within two weeks, Gilead announced in a press release.
Gilead Science’s remdesivir showed promising trial results after the company announced Wednesday that more than half of patients treated with the drug recovered within two weeks
Remdesivir has been among the top contenders of existing drugs being trialled for treating coronavirus, although World Health Organization documents leaked last week suggested it had failed to help patients in a more than 200-person trial recover.
Gilead defended the trial, saying it believed the leaked data was a ‘mischaracterization’ of the study’s results.
It’s unclear whether the newly-announced results are from the same trial.
For the phase 3 trial announced Wednesday, Gilead treated 200 severely ill patients with its antiviral drug.
COVID-19 is considered ‘severe’ if a patient is hospitalized and cannot survive without supplemental oxygen.
The company tried two different treatment regimens – a five-day and 10-day course – but did not include a control arm of patients who did not receive the drug.
Among those who were treated for five days, 60 percent could go home by day 14.
In the 10-day treatment group, 52 percent were discharged within two weeks.
Full recovery was achieved on the same timeline by 53.8 percent of the 10-day treatment group, and by 64.5 percent of people in the five-day treatment group.
‘These data are encouraging as they indicate that patients who received a shorter, 5-day course of remdesivir experienced similar clinical improvement as patients who received a 10-day treatment course,’ said Dr Aruna Subramanian, a Stanford University infectious diseases professor who helped lead the study.
Severely ill coronavirus patients, like those treated in the remdesivir trial, require oxygen to keep them alive, including mechanical ventilation (pictured). Safe treatments for these people are badly needed, as an estimated 80% of those put on ventilators will not survive (file)
‘While additional data are still needed, these results help to bring a clearer understanding of how treatment with remdesivir may be optimized, if proven safe and effective.’
That’s not to say that there weren’t patients who fared poorly.
Seven percent of coronavirus patients treated outside Italy died. It’s not clear how many patients were treated within Italy versus outside of the hard-hit nation.
Timing mattered as well.
People who were treated early – within 10 days of their first symptoms – fared better, with 62 percent being discharged from the hospital within 14 days.
But the trial’s results suggest the drug may still be beneficial, even if given relatively late. Nearly half of those who received remdesivir 10 or more days after they developed symptoms were also released from the hospital by day 14.
Generally speaking, the drug appeared safe in the trial, regardless of the duration of the treatment course.
More than 10 percent of patients treated with the antiviral became nauseous, and six percent of the five-day treatment group and 10.7 percent of the 10-day treatment group were in acute respiratory failure (also a complication of the infection itself).
The greatest risk posed to the coronavirus patients treated with remdesivir was liver damage.