Apr 30, 2020 - Health

Why Gilead's coronavirus drug is not a "silver bullet"

The release of remdesivir data has been a mess. Photo: Ulrich Perrey/AFP via Getty Images

If you feel like you're suffering whiplash from the new, conflicting study data on Gilead Sciences' experimental coronavirus drug, remdesivir, you're not alone.

The big picture: Remdesivir could provide some help and lay the groundwork for more research, but this drug on its own does not appear to be any kind of "cure" for the novel coronavirus.

What's happening: Remdesivir helped coronavirus patients get out of the hospital modestly quicker, based on early reads of an important and rigorously designed trial run by the National Institutes of Health.

  • That could be encouraging for those who get sick.

Yes, but: Analysts and experts were cautious about drawing too many conclusions without the full data from NIH — especially considering the primary outcome was changed mid-trial, and a separate randomized trial concluded remdesivir does little, if anything, to combat the virus.

  • "Remdesivir is a real drug for COVID ... but again, not a silver bullet," Umer Raffat, a pharmaceutical analyst at Evercore ISI, wrote to investors on Wednesday.
  • And because the drug has limited efficacy and likely works best before the infection gets too serious, "its availability is not going to move the needle on social distancing relaxation," tweeted Peter Bach, a physician and drug researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

The bottom line: This near-constant back-and-forth over remdesivir reinforces how strong the science and data need to be for any treatment, or for the world's best hope: a vaccine.

Go deeper: The high stakes of low scientific standards

Go deeper

16 hours ago - Health

World Health Organization resumes hydroxychloroquine trial

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization will resume its hydroxychloroquine trial after its safety committee found "there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol," WHO's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing Wednesday.

The big picture: The organization temporarily suspended its trial for the antimalarial drug last week after an analysis published in The Lancet showed coronavirus patients who took hydroxychloroquine or its related drug chloroquine were more likely to die or develop an irregular heart rhythm.

15 hours ago - Health

Hydroxychloroquine failed to prevent coronavirus infections

Photo: George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

Hydroxychloroquine, a drug that treats malaria and lupus, did not prevent people from getting COVID-19 if they were exposed to the virus, according to data from a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The bottom line: There has been widespread confusion about hydroxychloroquine's effectiveness — President Trump and other conservatives touted the pill with little sound evidence, while other flawed studies suggested it was harmful. But this trial authoritatively says the drug "didn't work" as a preventive medication for this coronavirus, a Vanderbilt University infectious disease doctor told the Washington Post.

Updated 6 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

Florida reported on Wednesday its largest number of new novel coronavirus cases in a single day since April 17. 1,317 people tested positive to take the state total to 58,764, per the state's health department. Despite the rise, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said bars and clubs could reopen on Friday.

By the numbers: More than 107,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus and over 1.8 million people have tested positive, per data from Johns Hopkins. More than 479,000 Americans have recovered and over 18 million tests have been conducted.