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Coronavirus: FDA approves emergency use of an antiviral drug treatment

Written by Diane Archer

Stat News reports that the Food and Drug Administration just approved the emergency use of remdesivir, an antiviral drug, as a treatment for COVID-19. It is not a cure. But, it could speed up your recovery.

It’s good news that remdesivir showed promise for speeding up the recovery of patients with COVID-19 in a government clinical trial. You should also understand that it is still too early to know how well it works, any side effects, and how safe it is.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease studied the effects of remdesivir on 1,000 hospitalized patients with COVID-19. It found that more than three in ten patients who took the drug recovered four days faster than patients who took a placebo, 11 days v. 15 days.

The patients in the clinical trial were all seriously ill. Questions not only remain about the safety of remdesivir but also about whether it works to help patients who are not seriously ill or as a preventive treatment.

The FDA has a fact sheet that explains more about the drug. Remdesivir should be used only for patients who are hospitalized with a blood oxygen count less than 94 percent. The FDA is also allowing the use of two antimalarial drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat hospitalized patients with COVID-19. But the evidence is not clear that they are either safe or effective

Gilead manufactures remdesivir. It’s CEO said that the company is donating 1.5 million doses of remdesivir–its existing supply–to ensure quick access for patients. Gilead will have 140,000 treatment courses available by July. And, the CEO is assuring the world that access to the drug will not come with financial obstacles. But, many members of Congress are concerned about what Gilead plans to charge for the drug, which was developed in large part with taxpayer funding.

Before taking remdesivir for COVID-19, be sure to tell your doctor about any serious illnesses and allergies you have, kidney or liver problems, and any prescription and over-the-counter medicines you’re taking, as well as supplements.

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