The first batch of novel coronavirus patients in Wuhan will start taking the antiviral drug remdesivir on Thursday. Remdesivir, developed by the U.S. pharmaceutical company Gilead and not approved elsewhere in the world, has been greenlighted by the Chinese health care authority for trial testing.

Gilead (GILD) plans to run a randomized, controlled trial to test investigational antiviral drug remdesivir against 2019-nCoV, also known as coronovirus, and is expediting pre-clinical testing of remdesivir against 2019-nCoV. Remdesivir has seemed to demonstrate activity against related coronaviruses, but no one knows yet if the single patient clinical anecdote is as supportive as press reports have indicated as most direct antiviral activity appeared to occur prior to remdesivir dosing in previous studies.

On January 31, 2020, Gilead Sciences issued a statement from Merdad Parsey, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer, which stated in part: “Gilead is working closely with global health authorities to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak through the appropriate experimental use of our investigational compound remdesivir. Together with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the China CDC and National Medical Product Administration, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and along with individual researchers and clinicians, Gilead is focused on contributing our antiviral expertise and resources to help patients and communities fighting 2019-nCoV. Remdesivir is not yet licensed or approved anywhere globally and has not been demonstrated to be safe or effective for any use. At the request of treating physicians, and with the support of local regulatory agencies, who have weighed the risks and benefits of providing an experimental drug with no data in 2019-nCoV, Gilead has provided remdesivir for use in a small number of patients with 2019-nCoV for emergency treatment in the absence of any approved treatment options. Gilead is working with health authorities in China to establish a randomized, controlled trial to determine whether remdesivir can safely and effectively be used to treat 2019-nCoV. We are also expediting appropriate laboratory testing of remdesivir against 2019-nCoV samples. While there are no antiviral data for remdesivir that show activity against 2019-nCoV at this time, available data in other coronaviruses give us hope. Remdesivir has demonstrated in vitro and in vivo activity in animal models against the viral pathogens MERS and SARS, which are coronaviruses that are structurally similar to 2019-nCoV. There are also limited clinical data available from the emergency use of remdesivir in the treatment of patients with Ebola virus infection.”

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