Dr Anthony Fauci is head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD), which has been running a global trial on the drug involving 1,063 people in 75 hospitals since the beginning of April. Earlier on Thursday, Dr Fauci said that initial results show that there is “clear-cut” evidence that remdesivir helps COVID-19 patients recover from the disease. Researchers found that patients who received the antiviral drug recovered 31 percent faster than those who didn’t.
Recovery times were slashed from a median of 15 days to 11, while the drug also appeared to increase a person’s chance of overall survival.
Only eight percent of those taking remdesivir died from the disease, as opposed to 11 percent of those taking the placebo (dummy) drug.
Dr Fauci told NBC News Today: “It’s the first step in what we project will be better and better drugs coming along…so it’s good news, but I was very serious when I said this is not the total answer, by any means, but it’s a very important first step.”
He added, “I’m hearing the company [that makes remdesivir] is really committed to getting it out as much as they can, as quickly as they can” and he expects the FOOD and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the drug “really quickly.”
The anti-viral drug remdesivir is “a very important first step” in combatting the coronavirus (Image: GETTY)
There is “clear-cut” evidence that remdesivir helps COVID-19 patients recover from the disease. (Image: GETTY)
Remdesivir is produced by the California-based company Gilead, who originally developed the drug as a treatment for Ebola.
It works by attacking an enzyme that virus needs in order to replicate inside human cells.
Scientists from around the world welcomed the news of the initial positive results calling it “fantastic”.
Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health, University of Oxford is running the RECOVERY trial of re-purposed drugs that could be useful in Covid-19.
“It’s the first step in what we project will be better and better drugs coming along” (Image: GETTY)
He said: “We need to see the full results, but if confirmed this would be a fantastic result and great news for the fight against Covid-19.
“The next steps are to get the full data out and work on equitable access to remdesivir.”
The NIAD study contradicts the results of a similar trial carried out by Chinese scientists, which appeared to show that remdesivir was ineffective in treating COVID-19.
However, the manufacturers of remdesivir, Gilead, argued that the Chinese findings were inconclusive, because the study was terminated early.
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Hopes grow that a vaccine against COVID-19 being developed by Oxford University (Image: GETTY)
Doses of the vaccine were given to six rhesus macaque monkeys (Image: GETTY)
Dr Fauci also said that he was hopeful that a vaccine could become available by January.
He said: ““We want to go quickly but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective.
“I think that is doable if things fall in the right place.”
Coronavirus current cases (Image: EXPRESS)
His comments come as hopes grow that a vaccine against COVID-19 being developed by Oxford University could be ready as early as September.
Doses of the vaccine, which is known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, were given to six rhesus macaque monkeys a month ago.
The monkeys, who are closely related to humans, did not go on to develop COVID-19 after being exposed to the lethal virus.
Millions of doses of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine could be available as early as September (Image: GETTY)
Other monkeys who were not given the vaccine all caught the virus and fell ill.
Oxford University has now proceeded to human trials, with 1,110 healthy volunteers recruited for the tests.
If the trial produces positive results, millions of doses of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine could be available as early as September, Oxford researchers told the New York times.