Remdesivir speeds recovery for Covid patients, report concludes

  • Remdesivir was recently used by doctors to treat President Donald Trump
  • People on remdesivir tend to recover much more quickly from Covid-19 than other patients  
  • The drug fights Covid-19 by hampering the coronavirus' ability to replicate inside human cells

Remdesivir has proved its mettle against Covid-19, a final report on the antiviral concludes.

Remdesivir hastened recovery for Covid patients who were so sick they had to be hospitalised, said Dr Raymund Razonable, vice-chair of infectious diseases for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

People on remdesivir recovered in 10 days, on average, compared with 15 days for those only receiving supportive care like oxygen and IV fluids, according to the results published on 8 October in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Adds to supportive care

"The time to clinical improvement for somebody who is admitted to the hospital for Covid with pneumonia is reduced significantly," Razonable said. "There is about a five-day difference in time to clinical improvement."

However, the drug did not appear to alter a person's risk of dying from Covid, noted Dr Mangala Narasimhan, senior vice president of critical care services with Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York.

"It adds to supportive care. I don't think it's a game-changer at all. It's something, but it's not the magic bullet," Narasimhan said. "It doesn't seem to change who goes on to a ventilator. It just seems to change how long they're sick."

Remdesivir fights Covid-19 by hampering the coronavirus' ability to replicate inside human cells. The US Food and Drug Administration granted the drug emergency use authorisation in early May, making it the first authorised therapy for Covid in the United States.

The drug has already filtered out across the country, and should be available to anyone who is severely ill with Covid, said Razonable, who participated in the remdesivir clinical trial as part of the Mayo's Covid-19 treatment review panel.

One of several therapies

"It appears that remdesivir does have value in hastening recovery of those hospitalised with Covid-19," said Dr Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "It has rapidly become standard of care in this group and, while not game-changing, is nonetheless an important tool."

In the clinical trial, led by Dr John Beigel from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 1 062 hospitalised Covid patients across the United States were randomly assigned to receive either remdesivir with supportive care or supportive care alone.

Remdesivir is one of several therapies doctors have used to treat President Donald Trump, who also received an experimental antibody cocktail created by drugmaker Regeneron using technology that manufactures copies of the antibodies naturally created by the body to fight coronavirus infection.

The antibody cocktail is still in clinical trials, but in light of Trump's ongoing recovery from Covid, Regeneron on Thursday requested emergency use authorisation for the treatment from the FDA.

Convalescent plasma

"I'm hoping these monoclonal antibodies will be a game-changer, but I haven't seen any of the data that's come out on them to really comment on them," Narasimhan said.

Trump additionally received the steroid dexamethasone, which often is given alongside remdesivir to sicker Covid patients such as those who need supplementary oxygen, Razonable noted.

Another unproven but potentially beneficial therapy that has been granted FDA emergency authorisation is convalescent plasma – antibodies drawn from the blood of Covid-19 survivors, Razonable added.

Image credit: Getty Images

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