What’s the Deal With Remdesivir?
Making sense of conflicting news about the experimental Covid-19 drug
If you’re confused about what to think about remdesivir, the experimental coronavirus drug, you’re not alone. Nearly simultaneous announcements about the drug’s ability to treat people with Covid-19 on Wednesday presented conflicting views: One, a statement from Gilead Sciences, the company that makes remdesivir, said it “is aware of positive data” from a federal trial of the drug but did not release the data from that trial. The other, an academic study published early Wednesday in The Lancet, reported negative results.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director and White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a briefing on Wednesday that the data from the Gilead trial, which he noted has not yet been peer reviewed, showed “quite good news” and a “clear cut positive effect in diminishing time to recover,” Reuters reported. According to the New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration plans to grant emergency use authorization for the drug as early as Wednesday.
Gilead currently has two ongoing studies involving remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug that currently has no approved use: One where people with severe Covid-19 get the drug for five or 10 days and that has no control arm, and one NIAID-sponsored trial involving people with moderate illness that does have a control arm (meaning some people are getting a placebo). Gilead’s statement about “positive data” today referred to the latter, and in a statement released Wednesday, the NIAID said that a preliminary data analysis of the (still unpublished) results showed that hospitalized patients who received the drug recovered faster than people who received a placebo.
Gilead also released data from the former study with another statement on Wednesday. It showed that the outcomes of patients who received either five days or 10 days of remdesivir had “similar improvement.”
As the Gilead news went public, The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals, released a new study on remdesivir ahead of schedule. This study, by a research team in China, showed that remdesivir treatment given to severely ill patients “was not associated with statistically…