The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency use of Ebola remdesivir to treat coronavirus.
The authorization means that the antiviral drug can now be used on people hospitalized with severe Covid-19.
A recent clinical trial has shown that the drug has shortened recovery time for seriously ill people.
But the FDA’s emergency clearance is not the same as formal approval, which requires a higher level of review.
Experts also warned that the drug – which was originally developed to treat Ebola and which is produced by the pharmaceutical company Gilead – should not be considered a “magic bullet” for the coronavirus.
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In a meeting with US President Donald Trump at the Oval Office, Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said that the FDA clearance was an important first step. The company will donate 1.5 million vials of the drug, he said.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn also said at the meeting, “This is the first therapy authorized for Covid-19, so we are really proud to be part of it. “
What do we know about remdesivir?
President Trump has been a strong supporter of remdesivir as a potential treatment for coronavirus.
In its clinical trial, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the United States found that remdesivir reduced the duration of symptoms from 15 to 11 days. The trials involved 1,063 people in hospitals around the world. Some received the drug and others received placebo (dummy) treatment.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads NIAID, said that remdesivir had “a clear, significant and positive effect in reducing recovery time”.
However, although remdesivir may help recovery – and possibly prevent people from being treated in intensive care – the trials have not given any clear indication as to their ability to prevent death from coronavirus.
Deaths in New York nursing homes
The news of the potential treatment comes as a nursing home in New York City reports 98 deaths from the coronavirus.
The Isabella Geriatric Center in Manhattan said that 46 of its residents died after testing positive, while the remaining 52 were suspected of having the virus.
And Dr. Fauci was not allowed to testify next week before a congressional committee examining the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.
“As the Trump administration continues its whole-of-government response to Covid-19, including reopening America safely and accelerating vaccine development, it is counterproductive to involve the very people in these efforts at congressional hearings, “said White. House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.
In other news on coronaviruses:
- Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said country will begin lifting lock on May 18 “slowly and gradually”
- India also extended restrictions for two weeks on May 4
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has defended its response to the early stages of the coronavirus epidemic in China, saying it “wasted no time”