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COVID-19 & Remdesivir: Coronavirus Patients Recover With Gilead’s Drug

An experimental antiviral drug developed by a research-based biopharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences showed positive results on its application, where more than half of a group of severely ill coronavirus patients improved.

UPDATE: On 29 April, Gilead Sciences Inc. announced that in Phase 3 of the drug application, Covid-19 patients have recovered from the disease. 50 per cent of the patients showed clinical improvement in 10 days' time 5-day treatment group and 11 days in the 10-day treatment group. More than half of patients in both treatment groups were discharged from the hospital by Day 14. Gilead plans to submit the full data for publication in a peer-reviewed journal in the coming weeks.

What Is The Gilead Drug - Remdesivir?

The drug remdesivir, an experimental drug being developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. showed 'hopeful' results for covid-19, however, the study which reported the effectiveness of the drug cautioned that it is difficult to interpret the results since they do not include a comparison to a control group [1].

It was developed as a treatment for Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus infections and it may have activity against other single-stranded RNA viruses. Remdesivir was pushed through clinical trials during the West African Ebola virus epidemic of 2013-2016 as the drug had promising preliminary results.

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The Drug Has Shown Promise Against Other Coronaviruses In The Past

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that at least five studies are testing remdesivir, which have also been given to more than 1,700 patients on a case-by-case emergency basis [2].

It was also stated that the drug has shown positive results against other coronaviruses in the past, using this to add support to the recent claim of the effectiveness of the Gilead drug.

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What Did The Study Reveal?

The Gilead drug was applied on coronavirus patients hospitalized across the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan and was of ages 23 to 82. Out of a total number of 53 patients, 34 of them were required breathing machines, showing the severeness of their condition. These patients were given the Gilead drug through an IV for 10 days or as long as the body was able to tolerate it [3].

On the 19th day of the drug application, it was reported that 36 patients (68 per cent) needed less oxygen or breathing machine support, however, the condition of eight patients worsened and seven patients died. Majority of the patients who had passed were of the age 70 and above [4].

The 13 per cent mortality rate reported in the application of the Gilead drug is lower than seen in some other reports. Some of the patients had serious complications such as septic shock and trouble with kidneys and other organs but it is not sure whether it stemmed from the drug or the existing disease. Out of the 53 patients, four discontinued treatment due to the health complications.

The researchers said, "We cannot draw definitive conclusions from these data, but the observations from this group of hospitalized patients who received remdesivir are hopeful" [5].

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Some Scientists Expressed Skepticism

While the study report claimed about the probable effectiveness of the Gilead drug, several researchers were not convinced that the drug would indeed have any effect on treating covid-19.

"The data from this paper are almost uninterpretable. There is some evidence suggesting efficacy, but we simply do not know what would have happened to these patients had they not been given the drug" [6].

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Multiple Studies Required To Understand The Drug

A spokesperson from Gilead Sciences Inc. added that "In studying remdesivir, the question is not just whether it is safe and effective against Covid-19, but in which patients it shows activity, how long should they receive treatment and at what stage of their disease would treatment be most beneficial. Many answers are needed, which is why we need multiple types of studies involving many types of patients," where the need to conduct randomised tests for studying the safe application of the drug was highlighted [7].

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India To Consider Use Of Remdesivir

Director of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Dr Raman Gangakhedkar hinted at the possibilities of the use of the drug in its solidarity clinical trials as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"Remdesivir a drug that was being used in Ebola outbreak. The drug acts on the mutation of the Covid-19 virus, which is why researchers believe that it could work," said the Director [8].

"ICMR is participating in a solidarity trial with WHO, an arm of that solidarity trial is also working on the efficaciousness of Remdesivir. Can pharmaceutical companies make it, once we know that then we shall move forward from there," he stated.

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On A Final Note...

Remdesivir is not yet licensed or approved anywhere globally and has not yet been demonstrated to be safe or effective for the treatment of COVID-19. Gilead plans to submit the full data for publication in a peer-reviewed journal in the coming weeks.

Read more about: covid 19 coronavirus drugs