Gilead Sciences Inc.’s experimental drug for patients with severe COVID-19 infections showed promise in an early analysis, raising tentative hope that the first treatment for the novel virus may be on the horizon.
The report published in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked 53 people in the U.S., Europe and Canada who needed respiratory support, with about half receiving mechanical ventilation and four on a heart-lung by-pass machine. Eight additional patients were left out of the analysis: one due to a dosing error and seven because no information was available on how they fared.
All received remdesivir for up to 10 days on a compassionate use basis, a program that allows people to use unapproved medicines when no other treatment options are available. Over 18 days, 68 per cent of the patients improved, with 17 of the 30 patients on mechanical ventilation being able to get off the breathing device. Almost half of the patients studied were ultimately discharged, while 13 per cent died. Mortality was highest among those who were on a ventilator, with 18 per cent of them dying.