Though not a formal cure for COVID-19, a new drug called remdesivir could be a promising new treatment for the virus, as a recent clinical trial has indicated.
In the study, over 1000 participants were randomly given either remdesivir or a drug they were told was remdesivir but was in fact a placebo drug with no known effect in combating the virus. This randomized and placebo-controlled model is what leading COVID-19 expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has referred to as “the gold standard of how you prove something is safe and either works, or doesn’t work.”
The preliminary results indicate that patients who receive the drug recover more quickly and are even slightly less likely to die from the virus: the remdesivir group recovered 4 days faster than the control group and experienced a mortality rate of 8% in comparison to the 11% mortality rate of the group that did not receive the experimental new treatment.
Though referring to apparent effects of the drug as “modest”, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director remains optimistic about what the results of the study signify for the future of research on the virus. “What it has proven,” said Dr. Fauci, “is that a drug can block this virus.”
Yet the distribution of remdesivir was met with confusion. Some doctors expressed frustration that the reasoning behind the determination of the shipments’ recipients was unclear, with some heavily impacted facilities having reportedly received no shipments.
“The administration provides zero explanation for why and how the initial shipments were made,” Washington University in St. Louis associate professor Rachel Sachs told Politico.
“This morning I wake up to realize that drug was promised to a handful of hospitals with no obvious criteria,” said Dr. Nicole Theodoropoulos, associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “It’s difficult to know what to tell patients when there is no transparency about the process.”
In the wake of this criticism, an email from White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Bix was publicized in which the handling of the distribution of remdesivir was criticized. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) subsequently announced that state departments would henceforth handle the distribution process rather than the HSS itself.
“Last week, it felt very opaque; we had no idea who was making decisions at the federal level regarding allocation, and what were the criteria,” University of Michigan internal medicine professor Daniel Kaul told the Wall Street Journal. “In general, we feel better this week.”
With state departments responsible for distribution, remdesivir manufacturer Gillead has promised to supply 607,000 vials of the medication in the coming six weeks.