Coronavirus Treatment: After HCQ and anti-HIV drugs, world pins its hopes on anti-Ebola drug Remdesivir

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April 20, 2020 3:43 PM

The study reported that 68 per cent of the patients saw an overall improvement in their clinical health with an uptick in their oxygen levels.

Remdesivir was manufactured by a US pharma company to treat the patients of Ebola disease in 2014.

With the development of a full-fledged vaccine not on the horizon anytime soon, trials of existing drugs which are used to treat other viral diseases seem to have more potential to bring some respite from Covid-19 pandemic. After the use of anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine and a combination of HIV drugs on Covid-19 patients, the community of health experts are pinning their hopes on a drug called Remdesivir which was manufactured by a US pharma company to treat the patients of Ebola disease in 2014.

Studies about the efficacy of these drugs on a large number of people are going in different countries under the aegis of the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, a small study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found positive results of the use of Remdesivir, IE reported. As part of the study the drug was administered to 53 critically ill patients of Covid-19 spanning across U.S, Canada, Europe and Japan. The study reported that 68 per cent of the patients saw an overall improvement in their clinical health with an uptick in their oxygen levels. A total of 47 per cent patients got completely recovered and were discharged from the hospital. Even among the patients who did not completely recover, half of the patients no longer needed the ventilator life support. However, on the flip side seven patients who were administered the same drug could not be rescued and succumbed to the deadly virus.

With a small sample of only 53 patients and more than 13 percent mortality rate among those who were treated with Remdesivir, no definite conclusions can be made about the efficacy of the virus, say experts. The fact that the study did not have a control arm has also gone against the validity of its results. In scientific parlance, control arm technique is used to compare the results of the use of experiment on two similar sets of people where one set is administered the drug and the other set is not. The efficacy of the experiment is then established after comparing the condition of both the set of people.

Lead author of the study Jonathan D Grein, director of hospital epidemiology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles also said that further controlled trials should be conducted to validate the potential of the drug. Dr. Harshad Limaye associated with Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital also told IE that the drug failed to show consistent results with Ebola disease. However, he added that Ebola and Covid-19 are different viruses and more clinical trials be conducted before reaching any conclusions.

As far as the availability of the drug is concerned, India has no stocks of the drug at the moment. The Indian Council of Medical Research has said that it can consider the use of the drug if local manufacturers are willing to procure the drug. Moreover, it would be too early to decide on the procurement question of the drug as the studies on the drug are going in more than 6 places across the globe. Presently most of the countries including India are either relying on Hydroxychloroquine or the combination of HIV drugs ritonavir and lopinavir.

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