So far, remdesivir was the only drug that appeared to have specific effects on the coronavirus. It was the only drug with an emergency use authorization for Covid-19 from the US Food and Drug Administration.
The results of the WHO study have not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. But the WHO posted them on a pre-print server.
The WHO study looked at remdesivir and three other reused drugs: hydroxychloroquine, the anti-HIV combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, and interferon. None of them helped patients live longer or be released from hospital earlier, the WHO said.
The trial was able to generate conclusive evidence on the impact of the drugs on mortality, the need for ventilation and the length of hospital stay.
The study covered more than 11,000 coronavirus patients in 30 countries. “The protocol was designed to involve hundreds of potentially overburdened hospitals in dozens of countries,” the international team of researchers wrote. They said they submitted their findings to a medical journal.
Before the WHO study, a large controlled study of remdesivir in the United States found that it shortens recovery time by about a third in critically ill and hospitalized adults with Covid-19, but does not does little to help those with milder cases.
Gilead Sciences, the maker of the drug, said the results did not mean the drug, sold under the brand name Veklury, had no benefit.
“The emerging data appear inconsistent with the stronger evidence from several randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals validating the clinical benefit of Veklury (remdesivir). We are concerned that the data from this global, open-label trial has not been reviewed as necessary for constructive scientific discussion, ”Gilead said in a statement.
“The benefits of Veklury have been demonstrated in three randomized, controlled clinical trials, including a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial – the gold standard for evaluating the efficacy and safety of investigational drugs. ”
WHO-led researchers say their trial, called the Solidarity trial, will continue. “New anti-SARS COV-2 antiviral, immunomodulatory and monoclonal antibodies are currently being considered for evaluation through the Solidarity Therapeutics trial,” the WHO said.
Monoclonal antibody treatments include Regeneron’s double antibody cocktail and Eli Lilly and Co.’s double antibody therapy.