No advantage of Remdesivir in lowering COVID deaths: WHO research

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 16

Widely prescribed antiviral drug Remdesivir has shown little or no benefit in reducing COVID-19 deaths, the world’s largest trial on the efficacy of four repurposed drugs on COVID-19 mortality reveals ten months into the pandemic outbreak.

Interim results from the WHO Solidarity Trial, which studied re-purposed anti-viral drugs Remdesivir, Hydroxychloroquine, Lopinavir, and Interferon-β1a found none of these helped reduce deaths in COVID patients.

The trial ran through March 22 to October 4, 2020, and followed 11,266 patients in 405 hospitals across 30 countries in all six WHO regions.

“These drug regimens appeared to have little or no effect on hospitalised COVID-19 patients as indicated by overall mortality, initiation of ventilation and duration of hospital stay. No study drug appreciably reduced initiation of ventilation in those not already ventilated,” said the pre-print of the study published today.

Authors said the chief aim of the trial was to help determine whether any of four re-purposed antivirals could at least moderately affect in-hospital mortality and whether any effects differed between moderate and severe disease.

“For each of these 4 repurposed non-specific antivirals, several thousand patients have now been randomised in various trials. The overall findings suffice to refute early hopes based on smaller or non-randomised studies that any will substantially reduce inpatient mortality, initiation of ventilation or hospitalisation duration,” the researchers note.

Indian expert K Srinath Reddy, one of the study authors, told The Tribune, “This was the world’s largest trial on Remdesivir and three other repurposed drugs. None showed any benefit in reducing deaths. Of the 2743 patients who were given Remdesivir, 301 died and in the control group of 2708 patients who were given other treatments, 303 died. So, there was no impact on mortality reduction.”

US-based Gilead Sciences, the makers of Remdesivir, however, issued a statement today, saying, “The emerging data appear inconsistent with more robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals validating the clinical benefit of Remdesivir. We are concerned that the data from this open-label global trial have not undergone the rigorous review required to allow for constructive scientific discussion, particularly given the limitations of the trial design.”

Indian apex drug controller had earlier allowed Remdesivir for restricted emergency use in severely ill COVID patients.

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