More than half of a group of severely ill COVID-19 patients improved after receiving an experimental antiviral drug, although there is no way to know the odds of that happening without the drug, because there was no comparison group, doctors said on Friday.
The results published in the New England Journal of Medicine are the first in COVID-19 patients for remdesivir.
The Gilead Sciences drug has shown promise against other coronaviruses in the past and in lab tests against the one causing COVID-19, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives.
No drugs have been approved for treating the disease. At least five large studies are testing remdesivir, and the company also has given it to more than 1,700 patients on a case-by-case emergency basis.
Friday’s results are on 53 of those patients, ages 23 to 82, hospitalized in the US, Europe, Canada and Japan. Thirty-four of them were sick enough to require breathing machines.
All were given the drug intravenously for 10 days or as long as they tolerated it.
After 18 days on average, 36 patients, or 68 percent, needed less oxygen or breathing machine support.
Eight others worsened. Seven patients died, nearly all of them older than 70.
The 13 percent mortality rate is lower than seen in some other reports, but no true comparisons can be made without a study rigorously testing the drug in similar groups of patients, the authors said.
A dozen patients had serious problems, but it was not clear whether they were from the drug or their disease. Those included septic shock and trouble with kidneys and other organs. Four discontinued treatment because of health problems they developed.
“It looks encouraging,” said Elizabeth Hohmann, an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital who is helping lead one of the studies testing the drug.
The problems that occurred were not unexpected given the disease, she said.
Derek Angus, critical care chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who was not involved with the research, said the recovery rate is good, but “there is no way of knowing from this series if remdesivir was helpful.”
“We cannot draw definitive conclusions from these data, but the observations from this group of hospitalized patients who received remdesivir are hopeful,” said lead author Jonathan Grein, director of hospital epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, in a statement from Gilead.
The Foster City, California-based company provided the medication and also helped analyze the results.
Results from more rigorous studies are expected by the end of this month.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
NO CONNECTION: Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said the CECC has linked no deaths so far to the AstraZeneca vaccine Eleven people in the nation have died after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, but the deaths should not deter older people with chronic health conditions from getting vaccinated. Nine of the deaths — people aged 65 to 97 — took place three hours to one day after the AstraZeneca vaccine was given, the center said, while eight of the 11 deaths were people aged 75 or older, most of whom had chronic health conditions. On Wednesday, the center said that 12 more people — seven women and five men aged 42 to 97 at
The EU is set to lift travel restrictions for US and Taiwanese residents as soon as this week, in the latest step toward a return to normal, despite concerns over the spread of potentially dangerous COVID-19 variants. Portugal, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, proposed adding Taiwan, the US, Albania, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Saudi Arabia and Serbia to a so-called “white list” of countries from which non-essential travel to the bloc is allowed, a diplomat familiar with the matter said. Assuming no objections, EU government envoys in Brussels would today approve the expanded
‘NO STRINGS ATTACHED’: The US is donating the shots without any political or economic conditions, and with the singular aim of saving lives, a senior US official said The US was yesterday to ship 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan, a senior US administration official told Reuters, more than tripling Washington’s previous allocation of shots for the nation. Washington, competing with Beijing to deepen geopolitical clout through so-called “vaccine diplomacy,” had initially promised to donate 750,000 doses to Taiwan, but is increasing that number as US President Joe Biden’s administration advances its pledge to send 80 million US-made shots around the world. The 2.5 million donated doses of the Moderna Inc vaccine would leave Memphis, Tennessee, on a flight belonging to Taiwan’s national carrier, China Airlines Ltd (中華航空), early
HELPING HAND: Vaccine eligibility can likely be widened to cover pregnant women now that the nation has more vaccine doses than it planned for, Chen Shih-chung said Taiwan yesterday received a shipment of 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the US, obtaining its largest single batch of vaccines since the COVID-19 pandemic began early last year. A cargo plane of Taiwanese national carrier China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) carrying the Moderna Inc vaccines landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at about 4:30pm, after leaving Memphis, Tennessee, early on Saturday, US time. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) and American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen were at the airport to welcome the plane. The vaccines were transported to a cold chain logistics center, where they would be inspected