A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that anti-viral drug remdesivir is not effective in the treatment of COVID-19.
The United States and some other countries have been using remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine as a life-saving measure against the coronavirus, but there is no conclusive scientific evidence that these tablets can cure the infection from the novel pathogen.
The US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) in May allowing remdesivir injection to treat suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized with severe disease.
When President Donald Trump was infected with coronavirus last week, he was given an experimental drug cocktail that contained remdesivir as part of the treatment.
Six months ago, the World Health Organization had coordinated a randomized control trial on the effectiveness of four potential drugs for the treatment of COVID-19.
Remdesivir, an Ebola drug, malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, auto-immune drug interferon, and the HIV drug combination of lopinavir and ritonavir were the repurposed drugs that were evaluated under the Solidarity Therapeutics Trial.
Announcing interim results Thursday, WHO said, “Remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon regimens appeared to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or the in-hospital course of COVID-19 among hospitalized patients.”
It was the world’s largest randomized control trial on COVID-19 therapeutics.
Remdesivir’s manufacturer Gilead Sciences rejected the findings of the study, saying that they were inconsistent with “more robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals validating the clinical benefit of Veklury (remdesivir).”
The U.S. biopharmaceutical company expressed concern saying, “the data from this open- label global trial have not undergone the rigorous review required to allow for constructive scientific discussion”.
The study, which spans more than 30 countries, looked at the effects of these treatments on overall mortality, initiation of ventilation, and duration of hospital stay in hospitalized patients.
WHO said that other uses of the drugs, such as in treatment of patients in the community or for prevention, would have to be examined using different trials.
The results of the trial are under review for publication in a medical journal and have been uploaded as preprint at medRxiv.
WHO said that new antiviral drugs, immunomodulators and anti-COVID monoclonal antibodies are now being considered for trial to rapidly evaluate promising new treatment options, with nearly 500 hospitals open as trial sites.
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