(CMR) According to new data published in the New English Journal of Medicine, the antiviral drug remdesivir is not the miracle drug some people are making it out to be. In fact, preliminary results are that it is definitely not a cure and offers some benefits over placebo but not on its own.
The results are being published almost a month after federal scientists claimed that an experimental drug had helped patients severely ill with the coronavirus. However, the drug made by Gilead Sciences has never been effective for its intended purpose – to treat hepatitis. Eventually, it was tested as an Ebola treatment but had no significant impact on those patients either.
The drug received Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization. but has never actually been approved for use. The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
The preliminary report is the first of its kind covering some 1063 patients who underwent a double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled trial of intravenous remdesivir in adults hospitalized with Covid-19 with evidence of lower respiratory tract involvement.
The overall finding was that remdesivir was superior to placebo in shortening the time to recovery in adults hospitalized with Covid-19 and evidence of lower respiratory tract infection. The drug appears to shorten recovery time from about 15 to 11 days.
Patients were randomly assigned to receive either remdesivir (200 mg loading dose on day 1, followed by 100 mg daily for up to 9 additional days) or placebo for up to 10 days. The primary outcome was the time to recovery, defined by either discharge from the hospital or hospitalization for infection-control purposes only.
However, the scientists issued a caveat:
“Preliminary results of this trial suggest that a 10-day course of remdesivir was superior to placebo in the treatment of hospitalized patients with Covid-19,”
the researchers wrote. But it was not a cure and it did not act quickly. Despite generally positive results, the researchers caution that the drug is far from ideal. In fact for patients who needed mechanical ventilation as part of their treatment the results were limited:
“Given high mortality despite the use of remdesivir, it is clear that treatment with an antiviral drug alone is not likely to be sufficient … Future strategies should evaluate antiviral agents in combination with other therapeutic approaches or combinations of antiviral agents to continue to improve patient outcomes in Covid-19.”
Also the impact on the decline in the death rate among patients receiving the drug was sent to not be statistically significant.
In an earlier, truncated study published in The Lancet medical journal, Chinese researchers had reported they could not find any “statistically significant clinical benefits” of the drug. Six major trials or studies involving remdesivir are currently underway, including the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) Solidarity Trial.