Patients diagnosed with coronavirus are signing up to participate in remdesivir studies around the world.
The studies on the investigational drug rolled out in hospitals over the last few weeks.
Remdesivir helped prevent infection and reduced the severity of symptoms when taken early enough in the illness in animal tests against SARS and MERS, diseases caused by similar coronaviruses.
The California-based drug maker Gilead Sciences began increasing production of the drug in January. The company has a goal of producing more than 500,000 treatment courses by October and more than 1 million treatment courses by the end of this year.
The drug is administered through an IV. It is designed to obstruct an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material, according to CBS News.com.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health is expanding its study, which has nearly reached its initial goal of 440 patients. The NIH study compares remdesivir to placebo infusions. Neither patients nor doctors know who is receiving the drug or the placebo until the end of the study.
So far, Gilead has given remdesivir to more than 1,700 patients on a case-by-case emergency basis.
One coronavirus patient who signed up was Dr. Jag Singh. When asked if he wanted to help test the experimental drug, the heart specialist at Massachusetts General said it "did not even cross my mind once to say ‘no.’”
According to Gilead’s chief executive Dan O’Day, the company will need more studies to prove the drug’s safety and effectiveness, he wrote in a letter.
“New U.S. sites have been initiated and we are adding more on an ongoing basis,” he wrote. “We are also making progress in Europe. Yesterday, the European Medicines Agency announced that it has provided EU member states with recommendations on implementing expanded access programs for remdesivir in their countries.”
Gilead supplied remdesivir for two studies in China and results are expected at the end of the month. The drug manufacturer launched two studies of its own for hospitalized patients in the U.S., Asia, Europe and elsewhere. One, in severely ill patients, tests five versus 10 days of treatment. Another, in moderately sick patients, compares those two options to standard care alone.
Remdesivir has not yet been approved by regulatory authorities anywhere in the world.
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