As the death toll inches closer to 150,000, researchers across the globe are racing against the clock to develop an effective treatment option for patients suffering from COVID-19.
There are three main pathways to a treatment solution: adapt an already approved drug, push an experimental drug through a clinical trial, or create an entirely new drug or vaccine.
Vaccines are a promising long-term solution, but they typically take 12 to 18 months to create. In the short-term, researchers have been having early success with experimental drugs.
A Chicago hospital treating severe COVID-19 patients with Gilead Sciences’ antiviral medication remdesivir is seeing recoveries in patients’ symptoms, Stat News reports.
Covid-19 patients who are getting an experimental drug called remdesivir have been recovering quickly, with most going home in days, STAT News reported Thursday after it obtained a video of a conversation about the trial.
The patients taking part in a clinical trial of the drug have all had severe respiratory symptoms and fever, but were able to leave the hospital after less than a week of treatment, STAT quoted the doctor leading the trial as saying.
“The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish,” Dr. Kathleen Mullane, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago who is leading the clinical trial, said in the video.
The outcomes offer only a snapshot of remdesivir’s effectiveness.
The same trials are being run concurrently at other institutions, and it’s impossible to determine the full study results with any certainty.
Still, no other clinical data from the Gilead studies have been released to date, and excitement is high.
Last month, President Trump touted the potential for remdesivir — as he has for many still-unproven treatments — and said it “seems to have a very good result.”
In a statement Thursday, Gilead said: “What we can say at this stage is that we look forward to data from ongoing studies becoming available.”
Gilead had said to expect results for its trial involving severe cases in April.
Mullane said during her presentation that data for the first 400 patients in the study would be “locked” by Gilead Thursday, meaning that results could come any day.
Slawomir Michalak, a 57-year-old factory worker from a suburb west of Chicago, was among the participants in the Chicago study.
One of his daughters started feeling ill in late March and was later diagnosed with mild Covid-19. Michalak, by contrast, came down with a high fever and reported shortness of breath and severe pain in his back.
“It felt like someone was punching me in the lungs,” he told STAT. At his wife’s urging, Michalak went to the University of Chicago Medicine hospital on Friday, April 3. His fever had spiked to 104 and he was struggling to breath.
At the hospital, he was given supplemental oxygen. He also agreed to participate in Gilead’s severe Covid-19 clinical trial.
His first infusion of remdesivir was on Saturday, April 4. “My fever dropped almost immediately and I started to feel better,” he said.
By his second dose on Sunday, Michalak said he was being weaned off oxygen.
He received two more daily infusions of remdesivir and recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital on Tuesday, April 7.
“Remdesivir was a miracle,” he said.