Hopes dashed: remdesivir does not help patients with COVID-19
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the antiviral drug remdesivir has “little or no effect on mortality” in patients hospitalized with coronavirus and does not appear to help patients recover faster. The details of the study were described by the edition CNN.
Until now, remdesivir has been the only drug with a specific effect on the coronavirus. It was the only drug approved for emergency use for COVID-19 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The results of the WHO study were not published in peer-reviewed medical journals. But the WHO sent them for a pre-print review.
The WHO study looked at remdesivir and three other repurposed drugs: hydroxychloroquine, a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, and interferon. According to the WHO, none of them helped patients live more or recover earlier.
The study provided strong evidence for the effects of drugs on mortality, ventilation requirements and length of hospital stay.
“For every drug in the study, the effect on mortality was disappointingly unpromising,” the WHO said in a statement.
Several other studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, does not benefit patients with COVID-19, as have several studies looking at HIV drug combinations.
The study involved more than 11000 COVID-19 patients in 30 countries around the world.
"The protocol was designed to involve potentially congested hospitals in dozens of countries," wrote an international team of researchers.
Prior to the WHO study, a large US study of remdesivir found that it reduced recovery time by about a third in critically ill hospitalized adults with COVID-19, but did little to help those with milder cases.
Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of the drug, said the findings did not mean the drug marketed under the Veklury brand was not providing any benefit.
“The new data appears to be inconsistent with the more robust evidence from several randomized controlled trials published in peer-reviewed journals supporting the clinical benefit of remdesivir. We are concerned that the data from this open global study has not been rigorously tested, ”Gilead said in a statement.
“Veklury's benefits have been demonstrated in three randomized controlled clinical trials, including a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial — the gold standard for evaluating the efficacy and safety of investigational drugs,” the company said.
The researchers, led by WHO, say their trial will continue.
"New antiviral drugs, immunomodulators and monoclonal antibodies against SARS COV-2 are currently being evaluated for evaluation in the Solidarity Therapeutics study," the WHO said.
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