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What You Need to Know About Remdesivir

Tracy Davenport Tracy Davenport
21st April 2021
What You Need to Know About Remdesivir
Remdesivir appears to reduce COVID-19 recovery time (Getty).

The Claim

Remdesivir is not effective against COVID-19.

Emerging story

On April 20, 2021, a fact-checking news agency in India claimed that the drug, Remdesivir, is not an effective treatment for COVID-19. 

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Misbar’s Analysis

Remdesivir (VEKLURY®) is an antiviral drug made by the U.S. manufacturer Gilead. On October 22, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization. It was the first COVID-19 treatment to receive FDA approval. Before and even since the FDA approval, there have been debates around the world about whether Remdesivir should be used to treat COVID-19. 

Misbar’s investigation found that the discussion about the effectiveness of Remdesivir must be divided into two parts: whether Remdesivir decreases COVID-19 mortality or whether Remdesivir shortens COVID-19 recovery time.

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Several randomized, controlled clinical trials have been conducted on Remdesivir. However, the outcome of the trials can not all be combined because some trials were designed with the primary objective of measuring rates of recovery. At the same time, other studies focused on rates of mortality related to COVID-19. For example, the ACTT-1 clinical trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases showed a significantly faster time to recovery in patients taking Remdesivir (about ten days) compared to the placebo group (about 15 days). There were just over 500 patients who were given Remdesivir in the trial. 

The WHO Solidarity trial involved 2750 hospitalized patients assigned to receive Remdesivir, three other antiviral drugs, or no drugs at all. The researchers found none of the trial drugs affected hospitalized patients with Covid-19, as indicated by overall mortality, initiation of ventilation, and duration of hospital stay. However, the primary objective of the research was to study mortality, not disease recovery time. In the published study, the authors share the following: “In this open-label trial, patients who would be considered fit for discharge might be kept in the hospital somewhat longer just because they were being given a trial drug” and “each of the three trial treatments that were scheduled to last more than seven days increased the percentage of patients remaining in the hospital at day seven.” 

In one of the latest studies to be conducted on Remdesivir by Johns Hopkins Medicine, it was found that Remdesivir speeds recovery in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Out of approximately 2300 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 342 received Remdesivir as part of their treatment. The rates of death were not significantly different between the control group and the Remdesivir group. However, the Remdesivir recipients had a shorter time to clinical improvement than matched controls without Remdesivir treatment. 

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The number of people who have participated in Remdesivir trials is minimal. Also, trials have differed in the primary outcomes being measured, the severity of the participants' disease, mean age, gender, and the race of the participants, to name a few of the variables. It isn't easy to conclude the effectiveness of Remdesivir by lumping the existing studies together. When the studies are considered from a stand-alone basis, it appears that Remdesivir may not be effective at reducing mortality, but Remdesivir appears to reduce COVID-19 recovery time.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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