An experimental antiviral drug to treat COVID-19 patients has fanned high expectations in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which has gained a decisive foothold in the United States and continues to spread around the world.
Gilead Sciences (GILD) acknowledged Wednesday that its drug, remdisivir, has seen positive results in both a company-sponsored and National Institute of Health-run study.
The treatment has been a frontrunner in the treatment race for the global coronavirus pandemic after it was first tested in China, which ended as enrollment numbers fell short. However, Gilead’s stock has mostly reaped the benefit of high expectations in a market desperate for good news, despite skepticism about what early test results meant for a broader deployment strategy.
“The study demonstrates the potential for some patients to be treated with a 5-day regimen, which could significantly expand the number of patients who could be treated with our current supply of remdesivir,” Dr. Merdad Parsey, Gilead’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.
“This is particularly important in the setting of a pandemic, to help hospitals and healthcare workers treat more patients in urgent need of care,” she added.
The news sparked a market rally, and amplified hopes for containing the global outbreak, which has now claimed more than 3.1 million lives and killed more than 218,000. In the U.S., more than 1 million are now infected, and killed more than 58,000, as officials debate how to safely relax lockdowns that are crippling the economy.
California is the latest state mulling a way to ease restrictions, and companies are calling employees back to the offices in June. Yet the Northeast remains a stronghold for growing cases and deaths, with New York and New Jersey seeing significant growth in infections despite falling hospitalization rates. Meanwhile, Massachusetts is also seeing increased rates of cases.
Testing continues to be a major component of a reopening strategy, as the Centers for Disease Control eased restrictions on who can receive them. The U.S. has now tested more than 5.7 million individuals, with Rhode Island the top state in per capita testing, followed by New York and New Jersey.
Gilead’s study shows promise
Gilead’s study was a placebo-controlled probe by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and the full results will be announced at the White House coronavirus task force briefing later in the day.
The study’s results show similar positive outcomes in severe patients who were on the drug for either five days or 10 days. The trial focused on patients who were not on ventilators, and were given the drug within 10 days after the onset of symptoms. At least 50% of patients were discharged from the hospital.
Gilead said in its statement the results will still need to be peer-reviewed, but shows potential for the drug’s ability to treat patients who are not on ventilators.
Still, the federal government appears to be moving quickly to capitalize on the results. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in talks with Gilead to help boost drug production and get the drug to patients as quickly as possible.
“As part of the FDA’s commitment to expediting the development and availability of potential COVID-19 treatments, the agency has been engaged in sustained and ongoing discussions with Gilead Sciences regarding making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible, as appropriate,” the agency said in a statement.
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