Very ill coronavirus patients treated with the Ebola drug remdesivir are showing promising — and quick — results, according to a new report.
A very early glimpse into one clinical trial site, at the University of Chicago Medical Center, reveals that most of the patients treated with the medication went home in as little as six days, STAT News reported.
As part of two Phase 3 clinical trials — sponsored by the drug’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences — the hospital recruited 125 people with COVID-19, 113 with severe cases, according to the report. Each patient had been treated with daily infusions of remdesivir, which works by shutting off the bug’s ability to replicate inside cells.
“The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great,” Kathleen Mullane, the University of Chicago infectious disease specialist overseeing the studies for the hospital, said in a video discussion obtained by STAT. “We’ve only had two patients perish.”
In the video, recorded this week, Mullane discusses the trial results with other University of Chicago faculty members, according to the report.
The results are promising, she said in the clip, but “it’s always hard” because the severe trial didn’t include a control group given a placebo for comparison — so it’s difficult to know for certain that it was the drug helping the patients.
“But certainly when we start [the] drug, we see fever curves falling,” she said.
“Fever is now not a requirement for people to go on trial, [but] we do see when patients do come in with high fevers, they do [reduce] quite quickly. We have seen people come off ventilators a day after starting therapy. So, in that realm, overall our patients have done very well.”
“Most of our patients are severe and most of them are leaving at six days, so that tells us duration of therapy doesn’t have to be 10 days,” she said. “We have very few that went out to 10 days, maybe three.”
Mullane confirmed the authenticity of the clip to STAT but declined to comment further.
The Chicago results, however, are not the full picture.
The drug manufacturer’s severe COVID-19 study includes 2,400 participants from 152 different clinical trial sites worldwide. Its moderate study includes 1,600 patients at 169 different global locations.
The trials are using a seven-point numerical scale to track patients’ improvement, from death at the worst and discharge at the best — with various degrees of supplemental oxygen and intubation in the middle, according to the report.
“What we can say at this stage is that we look forward to data from ongoing studies becoming available,” Gilead said in a statement to STAT.
President Trump and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn have highlighted the antiviral drug — found to work against SARS and MERS, two other coronaviruses — as a promising therapy.
An analysis published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that more than two-thirds of severely ill COVID-19 patients saw their conditions improve after treatment with remdesivir.
The study included 61 patients in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan who received a 10-day course of intravenous remdesivir.