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Remdesivir available to select COVID-19 patients through the NHS

Published on 27/05/20 at 10:39am
Photo by Francis Tyers

Gilead Sciences Ebola drug remdesivir will be available for selected patients who are suffering from coronavirus through the NHS.

The drug has been shown to reduce the recovery time of COVID-19 patients from 15 days to 11, and was recently granted emergency authorization in the US and Japan.

The NHS has secured the drug on a provisional license that will last a year. Matt Hancock, the British Health Secretary, said the limited availability of the drug “is probably the biggest step forward in the treatment of coronavirus since the crisis began.”

However, Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warned: “The amount of evidence on remdesivir’s efficacy and safety is still limited and it’s possible it will not become licensed. It is also not a recommendation for use. But it does allow clinicians to use the medicine outside one of the ongoing randomised trials without fear of it being regarded as bad practice.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said that the drug’s allocation will be based on expert clinical advice and take into consideration the situations where it will provide the greatest benefit. The international trial of remdesivir is being currently led by the US.

Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the school of medicine at the University of Leeds, also commented on the new availability: “While this is clearly the most ethically sound approach, it also means that we ought not to expect the drug to immediately act as a magic bullet. We can instead hope for improved recovery rates and a reduction in patient mortality, which we hope will benefit as many patients as possible.

“More pronounced benefit is likely to be seen when treating patients with less severe disease, ideally before they require invasive respiratory support, but this will only follow once the drug is more widely available and will be guided by the final outcomes of placebo-controlled trials."

Conor Kavanagh

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