Antiviral Drug Remdesivir Shows Promise Against COVID-19 In Trials
An antiviral drug is showing promise against COVID-19 in clinical trials, a doctor with Emory University said Wednesday.
Emory University leads the clinical trial (known as the Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial, or ACTT), sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the National Institutes of Health. This is the first clinical trial launched in the United States to evaluate an experimental treatment for COVID-19, and Emory has the largest number of trial participants.
Hospitalized patients with advanced COVID-19 and lung involvement who received remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received placebo, according to a preliminary data analysis released Wednesday.
Dr. Aneesh Mehta, the lead investigator of Emory’s remdesivir clinical trial, said though the data is preliminary, it is promising.
"It (the data) has not undergone the robust analysis that will be done in the coming weeks," he said.
But remdesivir seems to stop the SARS-COV-2 virus from replicating in the body, Mehta said.
For years, Gilead Sciences was primarily focused on ushering remdesivir into trials and toward approval for a different kind of infection: Ebola, STAT news recently reported. Mehta said Wednesday doctors know remdesivir has minimal side effects because of its use with Ebola patients.
Because the virus may have done damage already, seen as inflammation in the lungs, remdesivir may need to be coupled with other medications or treatments.
Preliminary analysis shows the median time to recovery was 11 days for patients treated with remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who received placebo. Recovery in this study was defined as being well enough for hospital discharge or returning to normal activity level.
Mehta emphasized the importance of understanding antivirals are in general not “silver bullets” but they work by slowly preventing the virus from making more of itself.
"That helps us shorten the time the patient is in the hospital," Mehta said, adding that mediation techniques are still necessary to prevent overwhelming hospitals.
"The goal is to prevent the infections and preventing patients from becoming so sick they need ICU level care," he said.
The NIH said the first participant in the ACTT trial was, "an American who was repatriated after being quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Yokohama, Japan, and volunteered to participate in the study."
A total of 68 sites ultimately joined the study—47 in the United States and 21 in countries in Europe and Asia.
Renee and Clyde Smith were among the first people on the Diamond Princess to get tested for coronavirus, and both tested positive. Both returned home to Atlanta and donated their blood to the Emory study.
The couple never experienced any symptoms of COVID-19. Staff treated them well and the Japanese government picked up the cost of their care.
"It's important for us to contribute to giving time for development of therapies and eventually for development of vaccines to protect people," Clyde Smith said.