Hopes are rising for a promising experimental drug in the fight against COVID-19. A major study shows that Remdesivir can speed recovery and may reduce the death rate. Experts believe it could have a profound effect on the pandemic since a vaccine is probably at least a year away.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, announced the news at an Oval Office press conference late Wednesday. "We think looking forward this is very optimistic," he said.
The California-based biotech company Gilead Sciences Inc. makes the drug. Researchers initially developed the drug to treat Ebola, but now, a major study shows it helps hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover more quickly from the disease - an average of 11 days compared to 15 for those in a control group receiving a placebo.
Those on the drug also showed a trend toward fewer deaths.
"The data shows that Remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant positive effect in diminishing the time of recovery," said Fauci. "It's a very important proof of concept because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus."
The US National Institutes of Health ran the study involving 1,063 COVID-19 patients in 22 countries, including the US. Some patients are already praising the drug for speeding their recovery.
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Chris Kane said he noticed a change after he began taking it. "Within 48 hours I was feeling a lot better," he said. "I think that Remdesivir gave me the extra jumpstart or kickstart or whatever I needed to kind of turn that corner."
Experts say more study is needed. They are cautiously optimistic about the drug and the NIH study. It has not been peer-reviewed but is being submitted to a journal for review.
The FDA says it's working with Gilead to fast-track Remdesivir, to make it available to patients as quickly as possible, as appropriate.
Gilead is ramping up production and plans to have more than 140,000 treatment courses available by the end of May, more than 500,000 by October and 1 million by December.