Experimental coronavirus drug “Remdesivir” halts new trials due to high demand

New patients are not being granted access to the experimental coronavirus drug “Remdesivir” due to “overwhelming demand,” said Gilead Sciences on Sunday. Gilead Sciences is the company behind the COVID-19 clinical trials of Remdesivir, a drug that was used during the Ebola outbreak. A new study recently revealed that the drug may be effective against COVID-19 due to the fact that this drug was previously known to be effective against some coronaviruses.

The study was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, after scientists found that the drug was effective against other coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS. Gilead Sciences said in a company statement that it is focusing on improving the approval process for new patients to achieve a similar timeframe and processing previously approved requests for the drug. The company will make exceptions for pregnant women and children under the age of 18 who are confirmed with COVID-19 and “severe manifestations” of the coronavirus.

Gilead Sciences Remdesivir
Gilead Sciences, headquartered in Foster City, California. | Image: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Clinical trials for Remdesivir are being conducted in five large groups, two of which could produce results in early April. According to the company, the drug has been provided to hundreds of patients in the United States, Europe, and Japan. “Enrollment in clinical trials is the primary way to access remdesivir to generate critical data that inform the appropriate use of this investigational medicine,” the company says in a statement.

The Remdesivir trials were not designed for a pandemic

The system is still not perfect, as Gilead Sciences acknowledges that some severely ill patients will not be able to enroll in the clinical trials. However, the company is moving towards a “compassionate use” system, to help expand programs for access to the drug. Gilead Sciences is also working with regulators to rapidly develops these programs. The company also notes that there has been “an exponential increase” in requests for compassionate use, as the number of cases begins to increase exponentially in the United States and Europe.

This sudden demand is what caused the company to pause approval of new requests as it works on improving its system. Gilead Sciences also says that the treatment access system that provides limited access to the experimental drug was “never intended for use in response to a pandemic.”

Can Remdesivir stop the pandemic?

Even if everything goes well, the mechanism of action of Remdesivir is poorly understood.  Some studies suggest that the drug positively binds to the mRNA chain in viral synthesis. Such binding prevents the virus from replicating, thereby stopping the virus. However, reports suggest that even then, a combination of drugs will be required to stop the novel coronavirus pandemic that we are facing now.

Without the knowledge of any other options, Remdesivir may be our best chance at fighting this pandemic. A recent report at the New England Journal of Medicine shows that a person administered with Remdesivir recovered on the seventh day of illness. Also, in a recent press meeting conference, the Director-General of WHO said Remdesivir may be only available drug effective against Remdesivir.

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Source: Stat

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