6 things to know about the leading drug being tested to treat COVID-19

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, researchers are working around the clock to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. 

One drug, remdesivir, which has been tested to treat other types of viruses, including Ebola, is the front-runner as a possible COVID-19 treatment, STAT reported.

Six things to know about remdesivir: 

  1. Remdesivir is an intravenous drug made by Gilead Sciences that works by targeting the system coronaviruses use to replicate themselves.

  2. It is being tested in five separate trials as a treatment for COVID-19. It's different from a vaccine because it wouldn’t prevent the disease, but if successful, it would treat the symptoms of COVID-19. Researchers are hoping it can reduce the intensity and duration of the disease, according to STAT.

  3. Remdesivir is the furthest along in the development process of any drug being tested to treat COVID-19.

  4. Remdesivir has been able to move so quickly through the development process because it already has been proven to be generally safe in humans when it was tested to treat Ebola. Several studies have proven it can treat coronavirus infections in animals. In one study, it was shown to block replication of MERS, a related coronavirus, in monkeys, according to STAT.

  5. Even though it isn’t approved in the U.S., remdesivir was used to treat the first U.S. COVID-19 patient through a compassionate use program, which allows unapproved drugs to be given under specific circumstances. The patient had no adverse effects from the drug and started feeling better the day after he received it. But just because it was successful in one patient doesn’t prove it is effective, STAT reported.

  6. Researchers expect the first trial results on its effectiveness in treating COVID-19 next month. If it is shown to be effective, experts say it should be used mainly in patients with more severe symptoms and those who have been hospitalized, about 15 percent to 20 percent of the cases, according to STAT.   

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