Gilead Sciences Inc.’s experimental drug to treat coronavirus helped patients recover faster than standard care, the company said, offering hope for what could be the first effective treatment for the illness that has swept the world.
A trial being run by the US’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases looked at whether Gilead’s remdesivir helped people with COVID-19 recover faster than without it. Details are expected to be released later, the company said in a statement.
Gilead shares jumped more than 9 percent in premarket trading, and the news appeared to lift the entire US stock market as well, with futures linked to major indexes surging after the company’s statement was issued.
Remdesivir has been one of the most-watched potential coronavirus therapies. Without a vaccine available, governments are seeking a therapy that can help patients recover faster and reduce the risk posed by the virus, which in patients with the most severe cases can lead to respiratory failure and death.
Multiple trials of the drug are being conducted, and it remains to be seen how much it helped patients. The trial measured how quickly patients no longer needed supplemental oxygen therapy or were discharged from the hospital. It’s not known yet how large the effect of the Gilead drug was on the patients, and if it will make a meaningful difference in their care.
The trial, run by the National Institutes of Health, aimed to sign up about 800 patients to test the drug and give a definitive answer as to whether it can help treat the illness.
A NIAID representative declined to comment.
Gilead released more detailed results from another study the company has been conducting, comparing a five-day and 10-day course of the drug, but without a placebo group. The study showed both groups did about the same, suggesting that a shorter course of the drug might be about as effective as a long one. Results of the study weren’t statistically significant.
The five-day regimen “could significantly expand the number of patients who could be treated with our current supply of remdesivir,” said Merdad Parsey, Gilead’s chief medical officer.
Remdesivir, which was originally developed to treat other coronaviruses like SARS and has also been tested on Ebola, isn’t licensed or approved for use anywhere in the world.