New Gilead Drug Shows Promise With Severely Ill COVID-19 Patients

During a time when we are starved for any sort of good news, stories like this one are an oasis in the desert. Investors have already found out about this story, too. The Dow Futures market certainly reflects that. Scientists have been keeping hope alive and they view remdesivir as the best chance for a miracle coronavirus cure.

Hydroxychloroquine has been in the public eye lately because of Trump’s willingness to discuss it during his briefings but scientists are less bullish. There is precious little evidence of its efficacy. The journal that published the initial French study on hydroxychloroquine was forced to issue a retraction.

Chinese studies show that hydroxychloroquine is causing more side effects than expected, making it an ineffective choice. The pills were not helping patients any more than the usual choices. So far, we do not have very much evidence on hand that would suggest that hydroxychloroquine is the wave of the future.

All of the initial excitement stemmed from the fact that this drug was already available for over the counter usage. As for remdesivir, there are still additional steps that need to be taken. This medication is currently in the trial stages. The FDA is currently watching these trials very closely. Gilead is doing their best to move things along as well.

They know that the demand is going to be through the roof if the trials go according to plan. Gilead is in the process of conducting a study on over 2,000 severely ill patients who are recuperating at 150 clinical sites. The good news that we are receiving comes from one of those sites: the University of Chicago.

It is important to remember that this data does not reflect the outcome of the entire study. This is just one respected hospital’s experience. If their head researcher is encouraged by the results that they have obtained, this is great news. The University of Chicago Medicine has tested 125 coronavirus patients during the Gilead trials.

The University of Chicago Medicine recruited 125 people with Covid-19 into Gilead’s two Phase 3 clinical trials. Of those people, 113 had severe disease. All the patients have been treated with daily infusions of remdesivir.

“The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish,” said Kathleen Mullane, the University of Chicago infectious disease specialist overseeing the remdesivir studies for the hospital…

“It’s always hard,” she said, because the severe trial doesn’t include a placebo group for comparison. “But certainly when we start [the] drug, we see fever curves falling,” she said. “Fever is now not a requirement for people to go on trial, we do see when patients do come in with high fevers, they do [reduce] quite quickly. We have seen people come off ventilators a day after starting therapy. So, in that realm, overall our patients have done very well.”

She added: “Most of our patients are severe and most of them are leaving at six days, so that tells us duration of therapy doesn’t have to be 10 days. We have very few that went out to 10 days, maybe three,” she said.

Many of these patients have been discharged and only two have perished. This trial does not have a placebo group to offer a comparison, which makes it hard to draw any concrete conclusion from the numbers on hand. Patients come in with high fevers and this medication reduces them quickly, increasing the overall survival rate for severely ill patients.

This is a good thing, for sure. We hope that this medication is a game changer and we will be able to learn more soon. Gilead has already obtained the results for the first 400 patients who were included in this study. They could release them at any time. Without a control group, it is hard to tell just how excited we should be.

A pharmaceutical treatment could come along and change our entire outlook at any time. This is why the United States should never follow the silly approaches that countries like Sweden have taken. They thought that they could simply let the younger population carry on with their normal routine and develop “herd immunity”. As you may have expected, this did not go well.

By taking the proper precautions and working together to flatten the curve, we are buying scientists the time that they need to develop a cure. The Swedish experiment is not looking too good at the moment and we hope that other countries are viewing their issues as a cautionary tale.

America will probably need to remain on lockdown until things have gotten much better. While the curve has started to flatten in some major cities, there are still other areas that have yet to experience the full brunt of the outbreak. This is not a time for anyone to start relaxing. We cannot make the mistake of easing up on our social distancing before it is truly time to do so.

Of course, we all want to get back to a semblance of normalcy but if we relent on social distancing now, we are setting the stage for a second wave. Everyone who is making summer plans right now should probably think twice before they start buying their plane tickets. It is going to be awhile before we are back to our usual routines.

The economy is a concern that needs to be addressed but widespread death and illness will cause just as much economic strife as any prolonged shutdown would. This is something that local governments would do well to remember. Since they are expected to take a leadership role going forward, they must make the right decisions. In the meantime, let’s all do our part to keep each other safe.