Severe Covid-19 Patients in US Are Testing Out a ‘Last-Resort’ Coronavirus Drug

There is no FDA-approved Covid-19 vaccines or drugs on the market currently. Felix Kästle/picture alliance via Getty Images

As the Covid-19 death toll keeps climbing in the U.S. and around the world, hundreds of patients in life-threatening condition are taking a “last-resort” unapproved antiviral drug called Remdesivir under a special FDA program.

On Tuesday, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield told a House appropriations panel that a number of people in Washington state, the area hit hardest by the coronavirus, have been treated with Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences, through FDA’s compassionate use program.

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Compassionate use, also known as expanded access, allows severely ill patients who have run out of options to try experimental therapies outside a clinical trial.

“For people that are very sick, and we have a number that are very sick, there is an experimental drug called Remdesivir that’s available right now in compassionate use. This country has used it,” Redfield said on Tuesday.

At press time, at least 32 people in the U.S. have died from causes linked to Covid-19. Twenty three deaths are reported out of Washington state.

Gilead’s Remdesivir was first tested on patients in Wuhan, China, where the epidemic erupted, last month as part of a Phase 3 study. Clinical trials were later expanded to Europe and Japan after the World Health Organization (WHO) said last month that the drug might be the “only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy” in treating Covid-19. Gilead is expecting trial results from the experiment in China as early as April.

Remdesivir was originally developed to treat the Ebola virus and has shown promise in treating Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), both caused by coronaviruses that are structurally similar to Covid-19.

Severe Covid-19 Patients in US Are Testing Out a ‘Last-Resort’ Coronavirus Drug