SCIENTISTS looking for a Covid-19 cure have suffered a major setback after the World Health Organisation revealed that experimental trials of the anti-viral ebola drug Remdesivir failed in its first randomised clinical trial.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, numerous scientists and pharmaceutical companies have been conducting trials of different drugs in search of a vaccine. Gilead Sciences, began trying Remdesivir sating it showed potential benefits and its researchers in China carried out a study on 237 patients, giving the drug to 158 and comparing their progress with a control group of 79.
However, a summary of the experiment said Remdesivir was not associated with a difference in time to clinical improvement, compared with the control. After a month, 13.9% of the patients on Remdesivir had died compared with 12.8% of those in the control group.
Remdesivir had also been used on severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf in Hamburg in northern Germany and was not successful. Remdesivir belongs to a class of drugs that act on the virus directly as opposed to controlling the abnormal and often lethal autoimmune response it causes.
A Gilead spokesman said: “The study was terminated early due to low enrolment and was therefore not statistically meaningful. As such, the study results are inconclusive, though trends in the data suggest a potential benefit for Remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early in disease.”
He added that the study does not represent the final word on the matter and there are several large-scale trials in advanced stages that should soon provide a clearer picture. Remdesivir, which is administered intravenously, was among the first drugs mooted as a treatment for the novel coronavirus and as such has great hopes riding on it.
Last week, it had shown significant efficacy at a Chicago hospital where patients who are part of one of the major trials are being treated. The US National Institutes for Health also reported it had proven effective in a small experiment on monkeys.
Remdesivir mimics one of the four building blocks of RNA and DNA and gets absorbed into the virus’s genome, which in turn stops the pathogen from replicating. It was quite successful in treating ebola.