Can new drug help speed up recovery from COVID-19?
Daniel Harries

It may not be a cure for COVID-19 but trials of the drug remdesivir have shown an acceleration in recovery time for severely ill patients.

Remdesivir is an antiviral medication developed initially by U.S. biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences to treat Ebola. It wasn't effective, but during animal testing it had shown promise treating SARS and MERS, both of which are coronaviruses. That research has now prompted human trials of COVID-19 patients.

Neera Ahuja, the principal investigator of the Remdesivir trial at Stanford University School of Medicine, explained how the drug worked. 

"Remdesivir interjects itself into the RNA [Ribonucleic acid] of coronavirus and stops the virus from proliferating or expanding or breeding new viral RNA," essentially de-accelerating the virus from proliferation in the body. 

Ahuja worked on a study that used more than 60 sites around the world, using participants with an average age of 58, which showed treatment shortened the course of the disease from 15 to 11 days.   

READ MORE: The blood clot test that could save COVID-19 patients: RAZOR

Ahuja noted that while the drug may be a benefit to anyone with COVID-19, it was more effective in those who are younger and healthier. 

"If they have underlying medical problems or presented a very severe or advanced form of the disease, they may be less likely to benefit."

Along with the promising trial, the drug manufacturers are seeking official approval needed for it to be administered to patients.

Earlier this week, the European health regulator announced it would look to fast-track the approval of remdesivir after Gilead Sciences submitted its marketing application.

Remdesivir has already been cleared for emergency use in severely ill patients in India, South Korea and the U.S.. 

"The assessment of the benefits and risks of remdesivir is being performed under a reduced timeline and an opinion could be issued within weeks," the European Medicines Agency said in its statement.

If approved, remdesivir, given intravenously, will be the first regulatory-approved COVID-19 treatment in Europe.

Check out The Pandemic Playbook, CGTN Europe's major investigation into the lessons learned from COVID-19

(Credit for cover picture: Labs across the world are fast-tracking trials for COVID-19 treatment. /AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, pool)

Video Editor: David Bamford

Source(s): Reuters