Analysts give Gilead's remdesivir 50% chance of success as COVID-19 treatment

Analysts at RBC Capital Markets suggested that it is a toss-up whether Gilead Sciences' remdesivir will succeed in demonstrating efficacy and ultimately securing approval to treat COVID-19, citing limited dosing results, confounding data and previous disappointments in Ebola. "[The] bar for success is likely very low, but we see at best 50/50 probability," analysts Brian Abrahams and Gregory Renza said.
Abrahams believes developing a treatment for the virus "remains a somewhat risky, unclear opportunity." Still, RBC indicated that sales of remdesivir could potentially reach $80 million to $150 million in the near term, although that falls well short of pandemic sales for Roche's influenza drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir), which reached $1.8 billion at their peak. Abrahams noted that intravenous administration of remdesivir will likely limit its use to severe cases requiring hospitalisation, while it is possible that the drug may also be stockpiled.

The analysts also suggested Gilead should be able to leverage the FDA's pandemic drug approval process and market a successful treatment while COVID-19 cases persist. "Perhaps more importantly, the programme should continue to put Gilead back on investors' radars," they said, noting that the company can also rely on its commercial HIV drug franchise and antivirals success to "solidify a new valuation floor for shares."

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo analyst Jim Birchenough remains optimistic about the prospects for remdesivir, downplaying concerns over the drug's "underwhelming" survival results when tested for use against Ebola infections. Instead, he believes remdesivir will meet study goals of lowering fevers caused by the new coronavirus and driving a higher hospital discharge rate, and could eventually add as much as $20 to Gilead's stock price.

The experimental broad-spectrum antiviral is currently undergoing multiple clinical trials, including in China and the US, with study results expected in April. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Remdesivir the redeemer.

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