As several experimental drugs moving in and out of laboratories, Gilead Sciences Inc takes a step closer to the much-needed cure for patients infected with Coronavirus. The medical research firm disclosed the progress in a recent report.
There are other clinical trials underway but that of Gilead Sciences showed more promise after 53 confirmed cases in the U.S., Europe and Canada received the experimental drug, remdesivir. They had been enrolled in a compassionate program that allows the use of unapproved medicines in the absence of alternative treatment.
Gilead tracked the patients who needed respiratory support or machine to help them breathe. According to a report, half of the selected patients were receiving mechanical ventilation, while four were placed on a heart-lung by-pass machine, however, eight additional patients were left out of the analysis: dosing error affected one, while lack of information on how seven patients fared left them excluded.
Good, but not there yet: But after taking remdesivir for 10 days, 68% of the patients reportedly improved, while 17 of the 30 patients on mechanical ventilation were able to get off the breathing device after over 18 days. It was also disclosed that almost half of the patients studied were ultimately discharged.
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However, 13% of the patients that were studied died, and the highest mortality rate was traced to patients on ventilators, as 18% of them were said to be dying.
“We cannot draw definitive conclusions from these data, but the observations from this group of hospitalized patients who received remdesivir are hopeful,” said lead author Jonathan Grein, director of hospital epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in a statement from Gilead.
Death during trial not a failure: Despite the deaths recorded during the trial, medical researchers believe the information gathered during the trials can do the trick. Speaking on the study of remdesivir, Gilead’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Daniel O’Day said information is vital to finding a solution.
“In studying remdesivir, the question is not just whether it is safe and effective against Covid-19, but in which patients it shows activity, how long should they receive treatment and at what stage of their disease would treatment be most beneficial.
“Many answers are needed, which is why we need multiple types of studies involving many types of patients.”
What you need to know about remdesivir: The experimental drug has been used to treat Ebola patients in Eastern Congo prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, but it wasn’t effective. However, at the time, it was labelled safe for the body, which allowed scientists to test it on COVID-19 patients.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University said it is potent to treat other forms of coronaviruses which are similar to the COVID-19. But one out of four of the COVID-19 patients experienced side effects after usage. It was reported that they experienced multiple-organ dysfunction syndrome, septic shock, acute kidney injury and low blood pressure.
Meanwhile, four patients had to stop receiving infusions of the drug entirely and 23% showed signs of liver damage on laboratory tests.
It’s cheap, but there’s a problem: The drug was reportedly made with $9, however, its cost could increase considering administering cost. Also, with the number of cases increasing globally, with US recording over 500,000, there might not be much to go round globally in a short time.
Though it is cheap, the drug is hard to make and according to Gilead, by October 2020, it will only be able to produce 500,000 treatment courses and more than 1 million by year-end. Note that production timeframe has been reduced to six months from one year.
The race to make a cure: The Foster City, California-based company provided the medication and also helped analyze the results. While the experimental drug is not yet at the final stage, it gives hope amidst rise of mortality due to COVID-19 globally. There are over 1.6 million cases, with over 100,000 deaths.
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Aside from Gilead Sciences multiple trials, in China, remdesivir trial is also ongoing and the results could be disclosed this month. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is also sponsoring a trial on the experimental drug, and according to Bloomberg, has enrolled patients massively; there could be a disclosure on their progress in the coming weeks.
Apart from remdesivir, there are clinical trials on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine supported by COVID-19 Accelerator, led by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as previously reported by Nairametrics.