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Gilead Drug Shows Promising Results In Treating COVID, Ready For Distribution Says CEO

KEY POINTS

  • Gilead’s coronavirus treatment redemsivir was found to reduce recovery time in patients by several days
  • Redemsivir and other drug treatments could serve as stopgap measures until a proper vaccine is ready and approved
  • The Trump administration and Congress re-entered negotiations about a stimulus package to help a U.S. economy hit hard by the pandemic

Final results from Gilead Sciences’ latest remdesivir trial showed the antiviral drug was effective in treating coronavirus patients and cutting recovery time by at least a week.

Gilead’s CEO said, given the positive results, the company was ready for mass production and distribution of the drug.

As of Friday, Johns Hopkins said the U.S. has over 7.6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and 212,805 reported deaths from it. The latest trial was conducted for nearly a month and involved over 1,062 patients hospitalized for coronavirus. Half of the patients were given remdesivir while the other half were given placebo as part of the randomized, double-blind trial. Trial sites were located in the U.S., United Kingdom, Denmark, Mexico, Japan, Germany, Greece, Korea, Spain, and Singapore.

Average recovery time for people given remdesivir was found to be shortened by five days. While overall data showed the drug was not significant in reducing mortality, it appeared effective in lowering the mortality rate among patients on oxygen.

“Our data show that remdesivir was superior to placebo in shortening the time to recovery in adults who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and had evidence of lower respiratory tract infection,” the final report in the New England Journal of Medicine said.

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said the company was pleased with the results and ready for distribution, if and when the drug is approved.

“These results are meaningful,” O’Day told CNBC. “They’ll definitely help patients around the world who have the misfortune of entering the hospital to get better, and I’m really pleased to say that we have ample supply.”

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said while remdesivir, alone, is likely not enough to treat coronavirus, this data is a good sign in battling the pandemic.

“I think combined with the antibody drugs, which should be coming onto the market soon based on the data that we’ve seen, this is a pretty effective treatment regime in advance of a vaccine,” Gottlieb told CNBC.

While a drug like remdesivir, or the antibody treatment developed by Eli Lilly, serve as a stopgap means of addressing coronavirus, a vaccine will still be needed to serve as a long-term answer. The hope is that a vaccine will be approved and ready for distribution by the end of December, with timetables having life get back to some degree of normalcy by summer 2021.

Some of the vaccines furthest along include:

  • Moderna and the National Institute of Health’s mRNA vaccine, currently in Phase 3 trials
  • China’s CanSino Biologics and Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute have vaccines in limited approval, though experts warned these were likely rushed and could still be harmful
  • AstraZeneca and the

Gilead Sciences to sell Europe 500,000 doses of remdesivir

Oct. 8 (UPI) — Gilead Sciences announced Thursday that it’s selling 500,000 doses of remdesivir to European countries as many experience a spike in cases of COVID-19.

The company, which produces the antiviral under the name Veklury, said it reached a deal allowing the European Commission to purchase the drug for 36 countries over the next six months.

Gilead says it ramped up its production of remdesivir in recent months after studies indicated it showed shortened recovery times for some coronavirus patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took control of the distribution of the drug in May after giving it emergency approval for COVID-19 treatment.

Gilead resumed control of distribution earlier this month. The company said it’s on track to produce more than 2 million treatment courses of the drug this year.

“Supply of Veklury is expected to meet global demand by the end of this month, enabling the purchase of Veklury both to treat patients and to support national stockpiling of the medicine for current and future surges of COVID-19,” the company said in a statement.

Clinical results for the antiviral have been mixed. A new National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine said treatment with remdesivir shortened recovery time by five days compared to a placebo, and reduced mortality by 70% at Day 29 in patients with low-flow oxygen.

Another study in August showed the drug doesn’t improve outcomes in people hospitalized with moderate pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

Researched published last month showed that remdesivir administered in combination with baricitinib — treatment for rheumatoid arthritis — can reduce the recovery time for people with COVID-19 when compared to people treated with just the antiviral.

Originally developed to treat Ebola virus, remdesivir works by slowing the production of enzymes that play a key role in the replication of viruses, including coronaviruses, according to Gilead Sciences.

President Donald Trump received remdesivir as part of his own treatment for COVID-19.

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Trump Tests Positive; Gilead Sells Remdesivir Direct; COVID Kills Pain?

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President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump announced they both tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently quarantining together. (MedPage Today)

Trump’s announcement on Twitter came just a few hours after one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks, tested positive as well. (Bloomberg)

However, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen tested negative this morning, the VP’s press secretary tweeted.

This comes after 25 states saw a rise in cases in just the past week. (Axios)

As of 8:00 a.m. ET Friday, the unofficial U.S. COVID-19 toll stood at 7,279,065 cases and 207,816 deaths — up 44,808 and 853, respectively, in the past 24 hours.

Things are heating up over in Europe too, as Italy experienced more than 2,000 cases in 24 hours for the first time since the end of April. (U.S. News & World Report)

Gilead Sciences said its now meeting real-time demand for remdesivir (Veklury) in the U.S., and hospitals can now buy the drug directly from the company in whatever quantities they need.

A new study looking at contract tracing data confirmed children can indeed spread the virus, but not quite as much as young adults. (CNN)

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was “disappointed” that Trump politicized the vaccine review timeline during the debate with Joe Biden. (Politico)

A mental health czar should be appointed to the White House’s coronavirus task force, says Monica Lewinsky. (Vanity Fair)

European mink farmers are now battling SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks in their herds. (Reuters)

But University of Arizona researchers find that coronavirus infection relieves neuropathic pain in an animal model, and speculate that an effect like that in humans could facilitate disease spread. (Pain)

In other news:

  • The latest vectors for Salmonella outbreaks: pet hedgehogs and bearded dragons. (CDC)
  • Chrissy Teigen and John Legend lost what would have been their third child after she suffered complications and severe bleeding halfway through the pregnancy. (CNN)
  • Universal Health Services said it’s working to restore its network after a ransomware attack knocked it out for five days. (Reuters)
  • How ironic — U.S. coal baron Robert Murray is seeking federal benefits to treat what he now says is black lung disease after years of stonewalling coal dust regulation. (Ohio Valley Resource)
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    Kristen Monaco is a staff writer, focusing on endocrinology, psychiatry, and dermatology news. Based out of the New York City office, she’s worked at the company for nearly five years.

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Gilead Sciences resumes control of remdesivir distribution

Mannequins with face masks and designer clothing fill a window at a Diane Von Furstenberg store in New York City on September 8, 2020. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo