Remdesivir: Promising but Not a “Knockout”

COVID-19 patients given remdesivir recovered faster than those taking a placebo, according to preliminary results from a clinical trial released by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases yesterday.

The experimental drug speeded recovery by 4 days for patients hospitalized with advanced COVID-19—reducing it from 15 days to 11 days, STAT reports.

NIAID director Anthony Fauci hailed the results as a “very important proof of concept,” but cautioned it’s not a “knockout.” The difference in the mortality rate—8% for the remdesivir group vs. 11.6% for the placebo group—is not considered statistically significant. NIAID said more comprehensive data will be released soon.

It is also likely that the treatment will work best when given early—and therefore, better diagnostic testing will be key to identifying potential beneficiaries as soon as possible. “What will be important is that we find (vulnerable) people on the outpatient side,” who are positive, and bring them into the hospital if they take a turn for the worse, says, Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of Boston Medical Center's Special Pathogens Unit.

Some scientists also raised concerns about the preliminary release in the White House, ahead of scientific peer review, according to The New York Times. Fauci cited concerns about leaks and the ethical need to switch people on the placebo to the drug for the early release, Reuters reports. The FDA appears poised to announce emergency-use authorization for the drug.

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