Topline: Gilead Sciences announced Friday that in a small study of remdesivir in severely ill COVID-19 patients, the majority saw symptom improvement when treated with the drug. 

  • The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 53 severely ill patients who were given remdesivir as part of a “compassionate use” program; after receiving the drug, more than half the patients on ventilators were taken off, and 47% of the patients were discharged from the hospital. 
  • The study has several big limitations: it involved a very small number of patients in multiple countries, and it also had no controls, so it is impossible to know how much improvement would have happened if the patients were not given the drug. The study was also funded by Gilead Sciences, which produces remdesivir. 
  • “ We cannot draw definitive conclusions from these data,” said Jonathan D. Grein, Director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the lead author on the study. “But the observations from this group of hospitalized patients who received remdesivir are hopeful.”
  • Gilead is conducting multiple other trials for remdesivir, and will release more data in May, the company said. 
  • Gilead shares remained unchanged after hours as of 6:00pm ET.
  • Remdesivir, a drug originally intended for Ebola and not yet FDA approved, is one of several medications, including hydroxychloroquine, that is being studied in clinical trials to treat COVID-19. 
  • So far, says the FDA, there are no approved drugs specifically for the treatment of COVID-19. 

Key Quote:The compassionate use results for remdesivir in 53 patients looks very encouraging, especially in very sick patients on mechanical ventilation,” wrote Eric Topol, cardiologist and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, on Twitter.  

Tangent: A lack of FDA-approved drugs to treat COVID-19 has led to a spike in fake claims for coronavirus cures. This week, the FDA sent out a warning letter to eight companies, including Alex Jones’ InfoWars, instructing them to stop selling unproven coronavirus cures and treatments. Many so-called treatments include colloidal silver, a substance of silver fragments in liquid that has no proof of any health benefits.

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