Anti-viral drug remdesivir has little or no effect in the recovery and mortality of hospitalised Covid-19 patients, said a World Health Organisation (WHO) study, giving a big blow to the hope that the drug from US-based Gilead Sciences raised in combating the pandemic.
The WHO said that the Solidarity Therapeutics Trial produced "conclusive evidence" on the effectiveness of repurposed drugs for Covid-19 in record time just six months. Interim results from the world's largest randomised control trial on Covid-19 therapeutics have been uploaded as preprint at medRxiv, the WHO said, adding that the results are under review for publication in a medical journal.
The study, which spans more than 30 countries, looked at the effects of these treatments on overall mortality, initiation of ventilation, and duration of hospital stay in hospitalised patients.
The results from the study indicate that remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon regimens appeared to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or the in-hospital course of Covid-19 among hospitalised patients.
"These remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon regimens appeared to have little or no effect on hospitalised Covid-19, as indicated by overall mortality, initiation of ventilation and duration of hospital stay," said the study.
The study conducted in 405 hospitals across 30 countries involved 11,266 adults.
Earlier this month, data from a US study of remdesivir by Gilead showed the treatment cut Covid-19 recovery time by five days compared with patients who got a placebo in a trial comprising 1,062 patients.
“The emerging (WHO) data appears inconsistent, with more robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals validating the clinical benefit of remdesivir,” said Gilead.
“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.”
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on Wednesday that during the study, hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir were stopped in June after they proved ineffective, but more than 500 hospitals and 30 countries continued with their trials.
“We’re looking at what’s next. We’re looking at monoclonal anti-bodies, we’re looking at immunomodulators and some of the newer anti-viral drugs that have been developed in the last few months,” Swaminathan said.
Remdesivir was only drug that received Emergency Use Authorisation for Covid-19 from the US Food and Drug Administration.