remdesivir canada

Experimental drug remdesivir said to speed recovery from COVID-19

Yet another medication has been added to the list of pharmaceuticals that doctors are experimentally employing to treat COVID-19 patients.

Here to replace the buzzworthy hydroxychloroquine (brand name Plaquenil) — the anti-malarial touted by U.S. President Donald Trump that preliminary research proved to be not only somewhat ineffective, but dangerous — is remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral originally created to treat Ebola.

John Hopkins University earlier this month called the new medication "likely the most promising drug" to treat SARS-2-CoV, the virus that causes the 2019 novel coronavirus, with a recent study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) lending credence to this claim.

Remdesivir, which is injected intravenously and works by attacking viruses at the genetic level to prevent replication, may be the first drug approved by the FDA for COVID-19 treatment south of the border after it was shown to cut recovery time and mortality rates in patients (from 15 days to 11 days, and 11.6 per cent to 8 per cent, respectively).

"The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery," NIAID director Anthony Fauci said at a White House press briefing on April 29.

The World Health Organization is also now studying the pharmaceutical as a potential treatment option, along with hydroxychloroquine and others.

The drug has the benefit of less severe side effects than medications like hydroxychloroquine, which can lead to arrhythmia and cardiotoxicity by extending the heart's QT interval. This led Health Canada to recently advise against the unsupervised use of Trump's purported COVID-19 panacea, which he was found to have a financial stake in.

Remdesivir is not without its own risks, though, as some trial patients suffered deteriorating kidney function and blood pressure (though the Washington Post notes that these are both also symptoms of the novel coronavirus).

Another issue is the fact that the drug is in short supply, and it's not manufactured as a generic version or by any other company than California-based Gilead. (As if things weren't getting dystopian enough without the Handmaid's Tale reference.)

And some are wary of any drug the U.S. government is quick to support given the notorious ties between politics and big pharma.

Many COVID-19 patients globally have thus far been treated by a pharmaceutical cocktail of sorts, which can include the above drugs and/or others, such as HIV treatment Lopinavir/Ritonavir, multiple sclerosis medication interferon beta-1a, antiviral oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu) and the antibiotic azithromycin, and more.

Clinical trials using remdesivir to treat COVID-19 are ongoing in the U.S., China and France, as is worldwide research into a potential vaccine.

Lead photo by

Integrity Bio/Wikimedia Commons

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