WASHINGTON (CN) — New evidence shows an experimental drug can effectively fight the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, or at least reduce recovery time, scientists announced Wednesday.
An antiviral drug called remdesivir, created by California-based Gilead Sciences, was closely scrutinized in a major U.S. government study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the results were positive.
“Although a 31% improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100%, it is a very important proof of concept, because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a press conference Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration could approve remdesivir for treatment of Covid-19 patients under emergency use provisions as early as Wednesday, according to a New York Times report.
Trials showed that remdesivir decreased the median recovery time of patients with advanced Covid-19 from 15 to 11 days.
Fauci, a top member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, said the results revealed on Wednesday are “quite good news.”
In addition, the test group that received the treatment had a mortality rate of 8% compared to the 11.6% mortality rate of those in a placebo group. Fauci told reporters, however, that remdesivir’s effect on mortality rates has yet to reach statistical significance.
About 1,090 patients around the world took part in the trial, which an optimistic Fauci deemed to be “the first truly high-powered, randomized placebo-controlled trial.” But he said during Wednesday’s press conference that the study still needs to be peer-reviewed.
Remdesivir was originally designated as a treatment to fight Ebola in 2015, but the FDA did not approve the medicine for that purpose because the results of early trials were not significant.
Merdad Parsey, chief medical officer of Gilead Sciences, said in a statement that scientists are “attempting to evaluate an investigational agent alongside an evolving global pandemic.”
“The study demonstrates the potential for some patients to be treated with a 5-day regimen, which could significantly expand the number of patients who could be treated with our current supply of remdesivir,” Parsey said. “This is particularly important in the setting of a pandemic, to help hospitals and healthcare workers treat more patients in urgent need of care.”
The National Institutes of Health today also announced a $1.5 billion initiative to speed up the development of Covid-19 testing technologies. The initiative will invest in early technologies and advanced diagnostic testing to accelerate their development.
“We need all innovators, from the basement to the boardroom, to come together to advance diagnostic technologies, no matter where they are in development,” said NIH director Francis Collins in a statement. “Now is the time for that unmatched American ingenuity to bring the best and most innovative technologies forward to make testing for Covid-19 widely available.”