ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – There’s a new sign of hope in fighting COVID-19 and that’s a drug called remdesivir.

The experimental drug isn’t approved anywhere but that could change as it shows early promise in helping fight COVID-19. “Remdesivir has a clear cut significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

While some small studies show remdesivir had little impact on COVID-19 patients, a larger clinical trial done by NIAID showed patients that took the drug recovered about four days faster than patients who didn’t take it. The drug is made by a company called Gilead and was developed years ago as a potential treatment for Ebola.

Dr. Michelle Harkins, Chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine at UNMH called the trial results ‘encouraging.’ “That’s encouraging that this actually may have an effect on the virus itself and clearing it and improving people’s recovery time,” she said.

While it is a breakthrough to treating COVID-19, Dr. Harkins, said more work needs to be done. “It’s not a home-run. It does not have a mortality benefit, though it is trending to a benefit. I think what needs to be done now is to continue randomized controlled trials with larger groups of patients,” she said. “Maybe there will be a signal that this drug works better in certain populations than others, or maybe this drug in combination with other anti-virals or other treatment strategies might prove an even better benefit. We just don’t know.”

Dr. Harkins said UNMH was able to use remdesivir on one patient at the hospital. She said the patient responded well to it and was eventually discharged.

UNMH has applied multiple times to be a clinical trial site for the drug and get expanded access to it but has not heard back from Gilead. The hospital is also trying other clinical trials to help fight COVID-19.

“We’re anxious to see what the scientific community comes up with to see if there is something that we can all adapt to to improve the patient outcomes and speed the recovery of their illness,” Dr. Harkins said. New Mexico’s Health and Human Services Department isn’t saying if the state is working on acquiring remdesivir noting that the FDA has yet to approve it as a treatment for COVID-19.

Anticipating it to be approved, Gilead is ramping up production. It said in January 2020 it wasn’t actively manufacturing the drug and only had enough to treat about 5,000 patients.

Now with increased production, assuming each patient uses the drug for 10 days, it plans to have more than 140,000 course treatments by the end of May. It plans to have more than one million course treatments by the end of 2020. Read more on the company’s supply plan here.

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