Gilead ramps up production of experimental coronavirus drug

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A US biotech firm has ramped up production of an experimental drug that has become a focal point for hopes of an effective treatment for coronavirus. The Guardian reports that, according to Gilead Sciences, the first clinical trial of the antiviral medicine remdesivir in COVID-19 patients is due to report its findings next month.

As the coronavirus outbreak has unfolded, about 300 separate trials into different drugs and experimental therapies have been launched in the absence of any established treatments. Many see remdesivir, originally developed to treat Ebola, as a frontrunner and one of the very few drugs that has a reasonable prospect of helping patients in the near-term.

The report says while awaiting these results, doctors in the US, China and Italy are already using remdesivir on a compassionate basis to treat small numbers of patients with severe COVID-19. The first US patient, a 35-year-old man in Snohomish County, Washington, recovered, but the full trials are needed to assess whether the drug reduces the severity of symptoms and, crucially, mortality rates.

The drug is being evaluated in multiple trials, the first two of which began recruiting patients in China in early February and another is enrolling patients in the US. Two further trials are due to launch this month in Asia and other countries with high numbers of COVID-19 patients which will compare two different doses of the drug and are expected to report as early as May.

Gilead stressed that it was boosting production “in anticipation of potential future needs” before knowing whether the trial would show the drug to be safe and effective at treating patients with the virus. The report says other compounds being tested include the anti-HIV drug Kaletra and other medicines that are normally used to treat hepatitis and malaria.

Full report in The Guardian

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