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Bioscience-Medicine

Antiviral Drug Is Approved For Emergency Use To Treat COVID-19 Patients

Medical workers wearing protective masks and suits treat patients at the pulmonology unit at the hospital in Vannes where patients suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated.
Stephane Mahe | Reuters
Medical workers wearing protective masks and suits treat patients at the pulmonology unit at the hospital in Vannes where patients suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated.

There is a glimmer of hope in the search for treatments for COVID-19.  The Food and Drug Administration has approved the antiviral remdesivir for emergency use for hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

An emergency use authorization from the FDA means that COVID patients in hospitals can use the medicine if their doctor thinks it will help — regardless if the hospital or patient are involved in the study. 

San Antonio is one of the sites involved in the study that was praised by Dr. Anthony Fauci last week.

Dr. Thomas Patterson is a principal investigator on the study cited by Fauci. He is the head of the Division of Infectious Disease at the UT Health San Antonio. He is running the San Antonio portion of the study at University Hospital.

“It basically is a trial that compares remdesivir to placebo for the control group without active drug in a one-to-one ratio,” Patterson said.

“It is one of the few drugs being looked at right now with direct antiviral effects. So, it’s basically focused right on the virus itself,” Patterson said, adding, “That’s obviously what you want to do, is stop the virus from replicating.” 

Patterson said the San Antonio site has also seen some of the encouraging results reported elsewhere in his patients. 

“Some of them were really ill, about half were on mechanical ventilation. And many of those patients were able to be discharged from hospital, which is a really encouraging finding,” he said.

The study is called the Adaptive COVID Treatment Trail — ACTT — and involves more than 1,000 patients at different locations around the world. Fauci said the study, so far, has found patients taking remdesivir were discharged from the hospital in an average of 11 days. Those who didn’t get remdesivir were discharged, on average, in 15 days.

That is not a knockout punch, but it is the first treatment that has been shown to have any impact on COVID patients in a large, controlled trial.

There are questions about how effective remdesivir will turn out to be. The same day Fauci talked about the drug’s promise last week, The Lancet medical journal published results of a Chinese study which found remdesivir did not speed recovery or reduce deaths compared to a placebo.

Also, you can’t go to your doctor and get a prescription for remdesivir. You have to be a patient in a hospital. It is delivered intravenously. There are no remdesivir pills.

For more on the San Antonio arm of the remdesivir trail and much more on the search for effective treatments for COVID-19, listen to Texas Public Radio’s most recent podcast, Petrie Dish.

Bonnie Petrie can be reached at Bonnie@TPR.org and on Twitter at @kbonniepetrie.

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