Early published results on drug therapy for coronaviruses are promising, but more information needed

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More than 60% of a group of critically ill COVID-19 patients have shown improvement when treated with remdesivir, an antiviral medication currently tested in several studies around the world.

Preliminary results published in the New England Journal of Medicine did not have a control group, which means that more research is needed to better determine whether the drug could help sick patients with coronavirus.

Nevertheless, 36 of the 53 patients treated with the drug or 68% of the group showed improvement.

In the United States, Italy, France, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan and Canada, patients received the drug intravenously for at least ten days.

Seventeen of 30 patients treated with the drug while requiring mechanical ventilation have improved. Eight patients saw worsening of the disease. In total, seven patients, or 13%, died.

The differences in results could also be due to differences in hospitals and supportive care, but the doctors who wrote the study concluded that the drug could be useful in cases of serious COVID-19 disease.

There have been 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 100,000 people have died, but there is currently no treatment for the virus that has caused a global pandemic.

“Although data from several ongoing randomized controlled trials will soon provide more informative evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of remdesivir for Covid-19, the results seen in this compassionate use program are the best data currently available.” , wrote the doctors in the study released Friday.

Remdesivir included in main COVID-19 trials

The drug interferes with an enzyme that helps RNA viruses to replicate and has been shown to be effective against coronaviruses in laboratory studies.

It was originally developed to help treat Ebola during the West African epidemic.

There are several major global studies on the drug manufactured by Gilead Sciences in the United States.

The company has already made the drug available to more than 1,000 very sick coronavirus patients and funded the study of 53 patients.

The National Institutes of Health in the United States is currently funding a double-blind study of 440 patients with a control group for the drug.

Remdesivir is also one of many antivirals tested in the European “Discovery” clinical study which is investigating investigational therapies that have been prioritized by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This trial is also examining the drug hydrochloroquine which has caused some frenzy over its supposed benefits in the treatment of COVID-19 despite some reliable studies on the effects of the drug.

More complete results from studies of these drugs are expected next month.

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