UPDATE 10/16/2020: According to a study sponsored by the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 treatment drug, remdesivir, does not prevent death among patients.
The new study looked at more than 11,000 people from 30 countries. The interim results from the trial were published October 15.
Gilead, the maker of remdesivir, has disputed the findings of the study, calling the finding premature and that other more rigorous studies have found a benefit.
Remdesivir, currently the only antiviral drug authorized from treatment of COVID-19 in the United States, has been shown in studies to reduce hospital stay from 15 to 11 days.
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19, doctors treated him with a drug called remdesivir.
Remdesivir is currently one of the only proven and tested treatments for the coronavirus.
However, doctors say the antiviral drug is not a miracle cure and a government official questions its price tag.
How effective is remdesivir?
Studies show remdesivir can reduce the hospital stay for patients with COVID-19 from 15 days to 11 days, but the effect the drug has on reducing death it is not as clear, according to studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
According to the research, by day 15, estimates of mortality were 6.7% with those who took remdesivir and 11.9% for those given a placebo.
By day 29, the mortality was 11.4% with remdesivir and 15.2% with placebo.
“It’s not a magic bullet. It doesn’t work every time and in every patient but it can help patients survive and decrease the length of hospitalization and speed recovery,” said Dr. Robert Gottlieb, a cardiologist who oversaw Baylor Scott & White Health’s COVID-19 treatment trials.
Kali Fields of Grand Prairie spent 17 days at Arlington Memorial Hospital due to COVID-19.
There, she was treated with remdesivir and said she noticed a big improvement after taking the drug.
“Within three days of taking it, I noticed I could breathe again. I could move around. The fever was gone,” said Fields. “I believe it helped and God took care of me.”
Remdesivir’s $3,120 price tag draws criticism
For the typical patient with private insurance, remdesivir costs $3,120 per treatment.
A study from the Journal of Virus Eradication estimates the cost to produce drug is $9 per treatment, although Gilead, the maker of remdesivir, has disputed this.
In a letter to the CEO of Gilead, eleven state treasures urged Gilead to lower the price of remdesivir.
The state treasures, including Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, wrote the price set for remdesivir “prioritizes unreasonable profits over recovery,” pointing out how the federal government spent $70 million to help develop the drug.
Gilead is projected to bring in $8 billion in sales from the drug in 2020 and 2021 from remdesivir, according to Credit Suisse financial analyst Evan Seigerman.
Gilead has pushed back against the criticism, saying remdesivier saves patients on average $12,000 by reducing their hospital stay by an average of four days.
In a statement, Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day wrote the price the company set for remdesivir is “well below its value.”
Combining remdesivir with other treatments appears be most effective
As part of his COVID-19 treatment, President Trump was given the “kitchen sink” of therapeutics.
This included remdesivir, the corticosteroid drug dexamethasone and an experimental antibody treatment by biotech company
Regeneron that currently is not available to the general public.
Dr. Gottlieb said the early results from studies looking at combining remdesivir with monoclonal antibodies are very promising.
The Regeneron treatment Trump received is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies.
Researchers at Baylor Scott & White are also testing an inhaler version of remdesivir.
Currently, the drug is administered through an IV.
Patients in the study are is getting the treatment through a nebulizer.
This would allow those with milder symptoms take the remdesivir without needing to go to the hospital.