Gilead Sciences stated Friday that it has provided doses of remdesivir to doctors for the emergency treatment of "a small number of patients" who have contracted the new coronavirus. The company, which has been assessing whether the experimental RNA polymerase inhibitor, initially developed for Ebola, could be used against 2019-nCoV, said it is also working with health authorities in China to establish a randomised trial to determine if the drug can fight the new strain. In addition, Gilead is speeding up 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," remarked chief medical officer Merdad Parsey, citing activity in animal models against MERS and SARS as examples. He noted there is also "limited clinical data'' regarding the emergency use of remdesivir in patients infected with the Ebola virus. Remdesivir, which currently isn't approved for use anywhere in the world, was dropped last year from a clinical trial evaluating four potential Ebola treatments after it was found to be ineffective compared to some of the others being tested.
A spokeswoman for Gilead declined to say how many patients are receiving the therapy or where they are based. The first US case to receive Gilead's drug is a 35-year-old man who developed pneumonia after contracting 2019-nCoV and was hospitalised in an isolation unit at the Providence Regional Medical Center - Everett in Washington state. He was given remdesivir intravenously on the seventh day of his hospitalisation on January 26. His doctors reported in the NEJM on Friday that the patient's pneumonia appeared to improve within a day, with no obvious adverse events. As of January 30, the patient remains hospitalised, but "all symptoms have resolved with the exception of his cough, which is decreasing in severity," they said.
"To my knowledge, this is the first reported case in the world where this drug has been used in a human application against this virus," said Jay Cook, chief medical officer at the centre. "At the time, we felt the benefits of using this drug outweighed whatever potential risk there might be and we obtained his informed consent," Cook added.
Johnson & Johnson said late last month that it is launching a "multi-pronged" response to the outbreak, including developing a vaccine candidate against 2019-nCoV and "broadly" collaborating with others to screen a library of compounds with potential to fight the infection. It has also donated its HIV drug Prezcobix (darunavir/cobicistat) at the request of Chinese health authorities who are evaluating its potential in fighting the virus.
Meanwhile, Moderna and Inovio Pharma have confirmed they will also start work on developing potential vaccines against the new coronavirus, while AbbVie said it has donated its HIV drug Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) as an "experimental option" in response to a request by Chinese health authorities.
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