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Gilead's remdesivir and three other repurposed drugs have no impact on COVID-19 mortality, WHO study finds

Published on 16/10/20 at 01:08pm

Gilead’s antiviral therapy remdesivir has emerged as one of the most promising drugs to treat COVID-19 infections, but recent studies of four therapies repurposed for COVID-19 have blown a hole in the theory that it could be used to reduce mortality in those infected with the virus.

Clinical trials conducted by the World Health Organization, involving 11,266 adult patients spanning 405 hospitals across 30 countries, randomised 2,750 patients to receive remdesivir, 954 to receive hydroxychloroquine, and 1,411 to receive lopinavir in a fixed-dose combination with ritonavir, while 651 were given interferon-β1a in combination with lopinavir, and 1,412 were given interferon-β1a alone; 4,088 patients were given none of these study drugs.

Ultimately, the large-scale study revealed that none of the four study drugs had any definite effect on in-hospital mortality rates among patients, and they also failed to have a significant impact on the length of time patients spent hospitalised or on their need to be put on a medical ventilator. While disappointing, the study has not yet been peer-reviewed

The findings are at odds with early promising data released in April by the National Institutes of Health, which suggested that use of remdesivir in hospitalised COVID-19 patients reduced their recovery time from 15 days to 11 days. Final analysis supported this conclusion, but no impact on mortality was found.

Gilead responded to the disappointing results: “We are aware that initial data from the WHO Solidarity trial has been made public prior to publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The emerging data appear inconsistent with more robust evidence from multiple randomised, controlled studies validating the clinical benefit of [remdesivir].”

Earlier in October, the European Union sealed an agreement with Gilead for at least 500,000 courses of the therapy. The company has priced a five-day course at $2,340 each.

Matt Fellows

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