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FDA authorizes emergency use of remdesivir to treat COVID-19. Here’s what we know about it

The authorization comes shortly after preliminary findings revealed the success of the drug

FILE - In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, rubber stoppers are placed onto filled vials of the investigational drug remdesivir at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. Given through an IV, the medication is designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material. (Gilead Sciences via AP)
In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, rubber stoppers are placed onto filled vials of the investigational drug remdesivir at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. Given through an IV, the medication is designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material.
Gilead Sciences via Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration has given emergency use authorization for some patients with COVID-19 to use remdesivir, President Donald Trump announced Friday.

The action allows remdesivir to be distributed in the U.S. by health care providers to treat suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.

  • HHS Secretary Alex Azar said: “FDA’s emergency authorization of remdesivir, two days after the National Institutes of Health’s clinical trial showed promising results, is a significant step forward in battling COVID-19 and another example of the Trump Administration moving as quickly as possible to use science to save lives. NIH, FDA, and scientists across America and around the world have worked tirelessly with patients to get us this new potential treatment for COVID-19. The seamless cooperation between government and private industry under the president’s all-of-America approach to COVID-19 is getting treatment options to patients in record time.”

Preliminary results from a study showed the drug can help patients recover faster, according to The Associated Press. The study found that patients who took the drug recovered four days faster than those who were given a placebo. Eight percent of those who took the drug died compared to 11 percent who died after taking a placebo, according to STAT News.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, praised those findings earlier this week.

  • Fauci said: “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.”

What is remdesivir?

  • Remdesivir has been on the minds of health experts for weeks. As Lois Collins reported, the CDC deems remdesivir an an investigational intravenous drug that can have “broad” antiviral activity.
  • According to the Associated Press, remdesivir “is given through an IV and is designed to interfere with the virus’s ability to copy its genetic material.”
  • The drug has battled other coronaviruses in the past. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the drug was made available to people through drug trials and a “compassionate use” program, which allowed pregnant women and children with severe COVID-19 symptoms to use it.
  • Goodrx.com said demand for remdesivir exceeded the supply, according to the Deseret News.

What’s next:

  • Pharmaceutical company Gilead, which makes the remdesivir drug, says it plans to give away all of its supply, according to The Verge. The company said the US would be in charge of distributing the drug.