Remdesivir Didn't Help COVID-19 Patients, World Health Organization Study Finds

Remdesivir, an anti-viral drug that was given to President Donald Trump while he recovered from COVID-19, has "little or no effect" on patients' survival, a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) claimed. Three other drugs that have been used to treat individuals sickened by the pathogen also failed to produce meaningful results.

As BBC News reported, the WHO carried out its Solidarity study, in which it looked at four drugs that doctors across the world have used to treat patients ill with the sometimes-fatal respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. In addition to remdesivir, a drug usually used to treat Ebola that has been around for decades, the organization also reviewed the anti-malaria medicine hydroxychloroquine, the auto-immune treatment interferon, and the HIV-fighting cocktail of lopinavir and ritonavir. The survey looked at 11,266 adult patients in over 30 countries and more than 500 hospitals, all of whom were given one or more of the experimental treatments.

a box of hyrdroxychloroquine pills
Getty Images | Buda Mendes

None of the drugs had any measurable effect on patients' chances of survival, the study concluded.

According to ABC News, the time spent in the hospital and the need for a ventilator were roughly the same among test subjects who were given remdesivir and those who were not.

Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor, noted that the high cost of the treatment -- $2,550 per course of the drug -- and the lack of evidence that it works suggest remdesivir is not a viable option for treating the illness.

"COVID affects millions of people and their families around the world. We need scalable, affordable and equitable treatments," Landray said.

However, the results of the WHO survey have not been published in an academic journal and have not been peer-reviewed, a process that is standard for scientific studies.

Gilead, the manufacturer of remdesivir, rejected the findings, pointing out flaws in the way the study was carried out, as well as the fact that it has not been peer-reviewed.

"We are concerned the data from this open-label global trial has not undergone the rigorous review required to allow for constructive scientific discussion, particularly given the limitations of the trial design," the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the medical community is looking at other potential treatments for the illness that has caused a worldwide pandemic. WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan noted that monoclonal antibodies, immunomodulators, and some newer anti-viral drugs that have been developed in the last few months are all being looked at.