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October 13, 2020

NIH study confirms remdesivir shortens COVID-19 recovery time

Illness COVID-19
NIH remdesivir report

Remdesivir, an antiviral medication, has quickly become the standard treatment for patients with severe COVID-19.

Remdesivir shortens the duration of a coronavirus infection by about five days, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH double-blind clinical trial showed that the median recovery time for COVID-19 patients treated with remdesivir was 10 days compared to 15 days for patients given a placebo. The findings were published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

This is the final report of a trial that includes a longer follow-up of 29 days. Encouraging preliminary findings had been released in late May.

Remdesivir has been the standard treatment for patients with severe COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic.

The experimental antiviral drug, manufactured by Gilead Sciences, first received an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 1 to treat severely-ill, hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

That same month, Pennsylvania hospitals and others nationwide began receiving shipments of the drug. The FDA's authorization was later expanded to include all hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

President Donald Trump was treated with a five-day course of remdesivir earlier this month after testing positive for the coronavirus. He also was given an experimental antibody therapy cocktail by Regeneron and the corticosteroid drug dexamethasone.

The NIH trial defined recovery as discharge from the hospital or being medically stable enough to be discharged. 

The researchers noted that the drug was most beneficial to patients with severe COVID-19 who needed supplemental oxygen.

The study also showed an improvement in mortality rate, but it wasn't statistically significant. By day 29, all-cause mortality was about 11% for those in the remdesivir arm of the trial and 15% in the placebo group.

The researchers advised that antiviral agents like remdesivir should be evaluated in combination with other therapies to improve patient outcomes. Treatment with just an antiviral drug may not be enough, according to the report.

The study included 1,062 patients. Of these, 85% had severe COVID-19. Patients treated with remdesivir received an initial 200 mg dose followed by daily 100 mg doses for up to nine additional days.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to 7,829,476 confirmed U.S. cases and 215,476 U.S. deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker.

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