Roughly two-thirds of patients given antiviral remdesivir on a compassionate use basis to treat COVID-19 showed clinical improvement, according to preliminary results from a Gilead study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study is co-authored by Rear Admiral Richard Childs, M.D., assistant surgeon general and lung specialist at NHLBI, who led a team sent to Japan to screen Americans aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and bring them home.
Of the 53 patients whose data were analyzed, all were in serious condition and in need of some type of oxygen support, including mechanical ventilation. Patients studied in hospitals around the world received remdesivir between January 25 and March 7 of this year. Half were followed for 18 days or less.
Thirty-six showed clinical improvement, while eight got worse. Patients who were not on a ventilator tended to do better than those who were. Seven of the 53 patients died. Over half of patients had side effects ranging from rash and diarrhea to acute kidney injury. Several larger, controlled studies are underway that could provide more definitive evidence of whether the drug is useful or not, and to which circumstances are best for drug use.