Seventeen of 30 patients on ventilators were removed from the breathing machines and nearly half of the 53 severely ill patients were discharged from hospitals, according to the study, which was published (pdf) in the New England Journal of Medicine. Another seven, or 13 percent, died.
The cohort study tracked 61 patients treated with remdesivir under compassionate use. Eight were left out because seven had no post-treatment data and there was a dosing error with one. The patients were in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Japan.
The promising results were circulating among the medical community, though the authors noted that the study had a number of limitations.
“Interpretation of the results of this study is limited by the small size of the cohort, the relatively short duration of follow-up, potential missing data owing to the nature of the program, the lack of information on eight of the patients initially treated, and the lack of a randomized control group,” they wrote.
“We cannot draw definitive conclusions from these data,” Jonathan Grein, director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the lead author on the study, said in a statement. “But the observations from this group of hospitalized patients who received remdesivir are hopeful.”
Daniel O’Day, CEO of Gilead, said in an open letter that multiple clinical trials of remdesivir are underway, including two run by the company, two in China, and a global trial run by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease across the world, while noting the results of the small study.
“We recognize the limitations of these compassionate use data from a purely investigational perspective, while knowing they are of the greatest significance for the patients whose symptoms improved. These early data from 53 patients have not been generated in a clinical trial and cover only a small portion of the critically ill patients who have been treated with remdesivir,” he wrote.
“We expect that we will have preliminary data from the study of remdesivir in severe patients at the end of April and will work quickly to interpret and share the findings,” he added.
Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that blocks replication of viruses. It’s not approved to use against any illness but has shown promise against MERS, a coronavirus similar to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
If remdesivir is shown as effective against the virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, it can be produced for a minimum of $9 a dose, according to a study published this week. Gilead has ramped up production in an attempt to meet increased demand, with plans to donate 1.5 million doses to researchers conducting trials and patients who cannot take part in the trials.