South Korea approves remdesivir for virus patients

South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside China but has brought it under control

South Korea on Wednesday issued an emergency authorisation for the anti-viral drug remdesivir to be used to treat coronavirus patients, paving the way for imports.

The US authorised the emergency use of remdesivir in hospitals at the start of May, followed by Japan, while Europe has been considering following suit.

A South Korean government review of remdesivir research said it had proven "clinically meaningful" in cutting patients' recovery times, the food and drug safety ministry said.

It will work with manufacturer Gilead Sciences to expedite the first shipment of imports, it added, without offering further details of pricing or quantities.

South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of COVID-19 outside China but brought it under control with a widespread "trace, test and treat" programme, with citizens largely following government safety guidelines such as wearing face masks.

It has so far reported 11,590 confirmed cases and 273 deaths from the outbreak. More than 800 patients are still under treatment or observation.

A study on over 1,000 patients in 10 countries by the US' Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that remdesivir, injected intravenously daily for 10 days, accelerated the recovery of hospitalised patients compared to a placebo.