Apr 29, 2020 - Health

Gilead's remdesivir shows limited benefit for coronavirus

Gilead's logo outside of its headquarters building.

New data were released for Gilead's remdesivir. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug made by Gilead Sciences, appears to help coronavirus patients recover more quickly than no treatment at all, but it does not significantly reduce death, according to preliminary data released today from the National Institutes of Health.

Yes, but: A conflicting trial in China, which also released full data today, said the opposite: That remdesivir doesn't appear to have a lot of clinical benefit.

Driving the news: The most reliable randomized studies — those where patients who get remdesivir, an antiviral IV medication, are contrasted with people who get a placebo — are finally starting to yield answers. But their contradictory conclusions are sowing more confusion.

The NIH study, a randomized trial of more than 1,000 people, showed hospitalized coronavirus patients who were on remdesivir got better four days faster than those who didn't get the drug (11 days vs. 15 days), but there was no statistically significant reduction in death.

  • The data, which are still undergoing peer review and weren't expected until May, show an "important proof of concept" for remdesivir but aren't necessarily a "knockout," the NIH's Anthony Fauci said at the White House today.
  • It's also worth noting people running the trial changed the primary outcome last month.

The Chinese study, a randomized trial of 237 patients that published in The Lancet (the same trial where a summary was leaked last week), said "remdesivir was not associated with statistically significant clinical benefits."

  • The problem: The smaller trial had to stop early because it ran out of patients to enroll.

The bottom line: The NIH study is the gold standard to watch right now, but leading experts ultimately agree the drug isn't something that will save the world from the coronavirus outbreak and at best likely offers limited help for people who get infected.

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