The Drug that Did Not Work for Ebola Might Be Our Answer to Coronavirus


The Drug that Did Not Work for Ebola Might Be Our Answer to Coronavirus

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Through the duration of this global pandemic, the medical and scientific community has been scrambling to find a treatment for the novel coronavirus. And now, after results of a US government-funded study were made public, it appears that there is a renewed interest in the antiviral drug remdesivir.

The study was cited by the US’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) chief Anthony Fauci, who said, “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” during a White House meeting with President Donald Trump. The study he cited found that patients given remdesivir recovered 31 per cent faster than those given a placebo. “Although a 31 per cent improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100 per cent, it is very important proof of concept,” Fauci said. “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”

Results from the preliminary trial show remdesivir improved recovery time for coronavirus patients from 15 to 11 days. That’s similar to the effect that the influenza drug Tamiflu has on flu. Tamiflu also doesn’t cure patients quickly, but can reduce how long they are sick. Similarly, Remdesivir also may reduce the likelihood that patients will die, according to a CNN report.

This development has renewed interest in remdesivir, which first attracted attention around two weeks ago on April 17, when the drug’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, shared data from an ongoing study into the effectiveness of remdesivir in fighting coronavirus. However, remdesivir was not created to fight Covid-19; rather, it is a drug that was earlier used during the Ebola outbreak, as its properties prevent certain viruses from multiplying. Luckily, it appears that coronavirus is one such virus that remdesivir affects.

In fact two Indian patients have joined the trials for, as India volunteered to participate in the World Health Organisation’s Solidarity trial for developing vaccines and testing drugs for the coronavirus, The Print reported.

However, the news that remdesivir will be used to test against Covid-19 has met with scepticism as well.

There are experts who believe that the US-government study should not be taken at face value, especially as there are other studies being conducted that downplay the effectiveness of remdesivir against Covid-19 as well.

While initial reports are promising, the jury is still out on whether remdesivir will actually help treating coronavirus patients. And when doctors and scientists can’t agree on the benefits of a drug, all us lay people can do is cross our fingers and hope.