The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to authorize the medicine remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19. The move comes after a trial of the drug turned up promising results in shortening the recovery time of the sickness. While the drug is not currently approved to treat any disease, the encouraging test results have prompted health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), to endorse it as a treatment option.
A New Possibility For Treatment
“As part of the FDA’s commitment to expediting the development and availability of potential COVID-19 treatments, the agency has been engaged in sustained and ongoing discussions with Gilead Sciences regarding making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible,” FDA spokesperson Michael Felberbaum said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Fauci expressed optimism that the drug could be effective. “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” the doctor said in a White House meeting.
Reducing the Length of Sickness
Tests of remdesivir have shown the drug can reduce a patient’s recovery time from the sickness from 15 to 11 days. CNN Health notes that by reducing the amount of time a patient is sick, the drug works in a similar manner to Tamiflu.
“Although a 31% improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100%, it is very important proof of concept,” Fauci said. “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”
The drug also seemed to have an encouraging effect on mortality rates. The NIAID reported that the drug reduced mortality in patients from 11.6% to 8%.
Remdesivir and Beyond
The FDA is reportedly working to fast-track the drug through the appropriate authorization process. “We’re working with the company to emphasize the necessity of speed while at the same time to understand the data,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said, per Bloomberg. “There will be a lot of factors that go into all the regulatory decisions. We want to look at the totality of data to make sure that remdesivir is targeted to the right patients.”
The principal investigator behind the clinical trial, Dr. Andre Kalil, told CNN that while research will continue on treatments, the results of remdesivir tests are highly encouraging. “We have work to do. We are looking for other therapies. This trial is going to continue,” Kalil said. “Four days [fewer] in a hospital is, for me as a clinician — as a clinical practitioner — it is not only significant but very meaningful.”