Remdesivir, a drug created by Gilead Sciences (GILD), has been tested on individuals suffering from severe cases of COVID-19. The drug was initially created to treat Ebola patients and was tested in Eastern Congo.
While it ultimately proved ineffective for treating Ebola, remdesivir was proven to be safe. This fact allowed researchers to expedite human trials when the coronavirus pandemic hit to see if it would be effective on COVID-19.
Now, as acknowledged in a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it appears that this experimental drug has shown signs of promise.
The drug was tested on 61 individuals across the United States, Europe and Canada over an 18-day period. Results from eight of these individuals could not be analyzed due to errors in dosing or post-treatment data, but 68% of the remaining 53 patients showed improvements in their conditions.
Furthermore, of the 30 patients tested who were initially on ventilators, 17 no longer required mechanical ventilation after receiving the drug. Half of the patients tested were discharged and a total of 13% died. The highest mortality rate came among those on a ventilator, a total of 18%.
All of the patients received remdesivir for up to 10 days on a compassionate use basis (which allows for unapproved medicines to be provided to patients who have no other treatment options available.)
If remdesivir is found to be safe and effective in treating COVID-19, the cost per treatment is estimated to be about US$9, the authors of an article in the Journal of Virus Eradication write. In addition, as an intravenous infusion, administration of remdesivir would likely not incur any additional costs beyond those initially estimated.
Remdesivir is now being studied in five large clinical trials, two of which could deliver results this month.
With 1.5 million individual dosages, enough for over 140,000 patients, individuals infected with COVID-19 can access the drug on a compassionate use basis at no charge.
The maker of the drug has ramped up production of remdesivir, setting the “ambitious goal” of producing more than half a million treatment courses by October and one million by the end of 2020.