Antiviral medication reduces risk of hospital admission for Covid-19, firm says

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An antiviral medication reduces the risk of people being admitted to hospital with Covid-19, a pharmaceutical company has said.

Patients who were given a three day course of remdesivir, also known as Veklury, as an injection saw an 87% reduction in risk of being admitted to hospital with the disease or dying, Gilead Sciences announced on Wednesday.

The study saw 562 patients assigned the drug or a placebo in a randomised trial.

Results also showed an 81% reduction in hospital visits or people dying 28 days after receiving the drug.

The data, from phase three of the trial, is expected to be presented at a virtual medical meeting on September 29.

Merdad Parsey, chief medical officer at Gilead Sciences, said: “As the pandemic continues to evolve and new viral variants emerge, Veklury is playing a critical role as the antiviral standard of care for hospitalised patients, helping prevent disease progression and speed patients’ recovery.

“As leaders in antiviral drug development, we welcome these findings and continue to invest in research of Veklury and novel oral antivirals to address the unmet need for effective and convenient therapies that can be administered at home.”

Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the School of Medicine, University of Leeds, said the results sounded “incredibly encouraging” when treating Covid-19.

He said: “Previous trials have provided conflicting evidence regarding the use of this drug to treat severe Covid in patients at later stages of infection.

“This is likely due to the immunological aspects of this disease that may, or may not, be directly driven by the virus itself.

“Although having to administer the agent intravenously will naturally limit feasibility for treating patients en masse, this hurdle can be overcome when necessary, plus the active metabolite/form of remdesivir (generated by enzymatic modification of the drug in our cells) may well be usable as an oral therapy in the future.”

Remdesivir has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat Covid-19 while the World Health Organisation advised against using it to treat patients last November, saying there was “no evidence that remdesivir improves survival and other outcomes” in patients.

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