The results have yet to be peer reviewed.
Remdesivir, developed for Ebola by US pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, was one of the first treatments offered for COVID-19 and was taken by US President Donald Trump when he was admitted to hospital with the illness at the beginning of the month. Trump has also touted the use of hydroxychloroquine, as has Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
“It’s certainly disappointing,” Julie Fischer, associate research professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University, told Al Jazeera. “What we would all like to see is what is often referred to as a ‘quick fix’; a drug that is already there, that is safe and that works effectively in patients. Unfortunately, in this case, this trial at least suggests that the benefits of remdesivir were not there at all.
The randomized drug trial took place in 405 hospitals in 30 countries and involved 11,266 patients. Some 2,750 people received remdesivir, 954 hydroxychloroquine, 1,411 lopinavir, 651 interferon plus lopinavir, 1,412 interferon only, and 4,088 did not receive any of the study drugs.
In a statement, Gilead said he was “concerned” that the data from the trial had not been subjected to rigorous scrutiny and that it was unclear whether “conclusive findings” could be drawn from the results.
Earlier this month, data from a US study on Gilead’s remdesivir showed that the treatment shortened the recovery time from COVID-19 in patients by five days compared to patients given a placebo in a trial involving out of 1,062 subjects.
“The emergence [WHO] the data appear inconsistent, with more robust evidence from several randomized controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals validating the clinical benefit of remdesivir, ”Gilead told Reuters news agency.
Remdesivir received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in the United States on May 1, and has since received regulatory approval in several other countries.
The search for treatments continues
WHO started the Solidarity trial after a COVID-19 research forum in February recommended evaluating treatments for the disease and experts have identified four reused antiviral drugs that could have at least a moderate effect on mortality.
The trial was designed to be adaptive, allowing less promising drugs to be dropped and more to be added. The trial stopped using hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir in June.
“The poor overall results of the treatment regimens tested are enough to refute early hopes, based on smaller or non-randomized studies, that anything will significantly reduce inpatient mortality, the onset of ventilation or the length of hospital stay.” , revealed the preliminary study.
Solidarity continues to recruit around 2,000 patients per month in its search for more effective treatments for COVID-19 with many countries, especially in Europe, which are now experiencing an outbreak of new coronavirus cases. Almost 39 million people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than one million have died.
New anti-SARS-CoV-2 antiviral drugs, immunomodulators and monoclonal antibodies are currently being considered for evaluation, the WHO said.
“We are looking at the next step,” said Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist for the world health agency.