Remdesivir is the new buzzword coronavirus that appears in the title after the title. Health officials have been staring at the experimental antiviral drug in recent weeks, hoping it could prove to be an effective treatment for COVID-19[female[feminine, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Now, we have a bit of evidence to suggest that the drug may speed up the time it takes a COVID-19 patient to recover. Given the urgent need for a remedy, Food and Drug Administration jumped on the results and authorized the emergency use of remdesivir in hospitalized patients who need it (especially adults and children who need oxygen therapy or a ventilator).
The manufacturer behind remdesivir, Gilead, partners with the government to donate more than a million vials of medicine to patients in need. (Gilead, some may remember, was involved in Trial 2019 Administration accusing the drug maker of wasting money from taxpayer-funded research on the main HIV prevention therapy PrEP.)
Health experts are cautiously optimistic about remdesivir. However, even if there is evidence that the investigational drug may help clear the virus from a person’s system, they want to see more studies validating the results.
Here is what we know about the investigational antiviral medication:
How remdesivir works
COVID-19 is caused by a viral infection. When the coronavirus infects one of our cells, perhaps in our nose or throat, the virus begins to replicate again and again to help spread the infection throughout the body.
Viruses basically use our cells as small factories to make all of the genetic ingredients that allow them to survive and thrive in our bodies, said Matthew Heinz, hospitalist and internist at Tucson Medical Center. The more a virus replicates, the more widespread and harmful the infection can be.
Remdesivir is an antiviral that prevents the virus from reproducing. “This is a therapy that inhibits the ability of the virus to replicate, which is commonly done in several other antiviral agents,” said Heinz.
A new study from the National Institutes of Health evaluating remdesivir and COVID-19 found that hospitalized coronavirus patients who took the drug had a 31% improvement in recovery time compared to patients who took a placebo. Patients who took the drug recovered within 11 days on average, while those who did not return within 15 days.
The NIH study, which is the first human trial, also found that the mortality rate was 11.6% in the placebo group and 8% in the treatment group.
Another study led by Stanford University on behalf of Gilead found that the treatment was just as effective when taken for five days as it was for 10 days. A difference of a few days may seem insignificant, but in severe cases, even those few days can be life-changing.
Aruna Subramanian, clinical professor of infectious diseases and co-principal investigator of the Gilead Trials at Stanford, said that every day counts when you are in the intensive care unit.
“Reducing your hospital stay from four days, from 15 days to 11 days, is very impressive in the midst of a pandemic where every day in the hospital counts, every day counts for oxygen. Having to use protective equipment to get into the rooms – four days less is a big step, “said Subramanian.
Remdesivir is a treatment, not a cure
Heinz insisted that remdesivir be a treatment, not a cure. There is no known cure for any coronavirus – neither COVID-19, SARS or MERS, nor the other four coronaviruses that cause colds.
“It’s not like a universal remedy, great, we’re done and we can forget about social distance, it’s over – no,” said Heinz.
Rather, remdesivir can be used as adjustment therapy – in addition to all other supportive therapies administered in the hospital – to help more people with severe symptoms recover.
When used as an adjunct, said Heinz, it can probably “get more people through this process – remove them from ventilators earlier, get them out of hospital earlier, get rid of addiction to oxygen earlier. “
We have already seen remdesivir
This is not the first trick for remdesivir. Although it has not been actively used with other infections, it has been in the works for some time.
Scientists have already considered the drug for Ebola (did not do the trick), with the other large SARS coronaviruses and Seas (the evidence was convincing in mice and monkeys).
Remdesivir has been shown to be more effective in laboratory and animal studies active in the fight against coronaviruses than other drugs. And even though the drug has not been tested on humans to treat SARS or MERS in the real world, the researchers suspected that it would be our best bet with COVID-19, Said Subramanian.
More research desperately needed
Heinz said that this endeavor with remdesivir is monumental and intimidating. We are not taking a remedy that has proven to be effective for SARS and MERS and we are changing it for COVID-19. We are looking at a drug that has shown promise with these coronaviruses and we see how well it works with an entirely new infection. And we do it in a a few weeks – not months or years, as generally required.
“What we are trying to do in 10 seconds has never been done in 100 years of medicine or more,” said Heinz.
We certainly need more studies to make sure the results are valid. “We need several tests, several studies and research to systematically show this model [that remdesivir works]Said Heinz.
Researchers should also explore all the data and determine the best way to use remdesivir. According to Subramanian, researchers will need to determine when people should start treatment (it seems, now, the sooner you treat, the better the result). They also need to determine which patient groups you should really target – and who might be worse off without treatment – and where the drug can have the greatest impact.
After that, the next step would be to look at combination therapies, noted Subramanian, and see if there are any drugs that can be combined with remdesivir to make it even more effective. We have to see through that, said Heinz – but all things considered, what we see is really promising.
Experts are still learning about the new coronavirus. The information in this story is as it was known or available at the time of publication, but the indications for COVID-19 may change as scientists find out more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.
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