US antiviral drug in clinical trials in Wuhan


  • China
  • Friday, 07 Feb 2020

Prevention and cure: Province officials disinfecting a bus in Qingdao in Shandong province. — AFP

BEIJING: Clinical trials of the United States biotech company Gilead Sciences’ experimental drug Remdesivir have begun in Wuhan, Hubei province, the centre of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Experts hope this drug, along with others that have shown to be effective against the virus in test tubes, can also work well in actual human patients.

The Phase III trials have been approved by China’s National Medical Products Administration and will be conducted by the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences on patients at the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital.

The project will study a total of 761 patients in two trials – one trial to assess the drug’s potency on 308 cases with mild or moderate infections and the other is on 453 severely infected patients, Cao Bin, the head of the clinical trial and vice-president of the friendship hospital, said in a launch ceremony on Wednesday.

Cao said studies have shown Remdesivir is effective in arresting the novel coronavirus’s growth in vitro, meaning the procedure was done on cells in a controlled environment outside of a living organism, typically in a petri dish or test tube.

But the drug has yet to show convincing clinical evidence of translating its positive results into actual human patients and therefore will require rigorous clinical testing to evaluate its efficiency, Cao said.

Since there is no effective antiviral medication against the novel coronavirus yet, Cao said he is looking forward to the clinical test results for Remdesivir.

Gilead Sciences said in a statement to media that it is providing the study drug at no charge, and is actively collaborating with government agencies on the novel coronavirus response efforts, including sharing knowledge on study design and regular updates on the drug’s production.

However, the company stressed that “Remdesivir is an experimental medicine that has only been used in a small number of patients with the viral infection to date, so we do not have an appropriately robust understanding of the effect of this drug to warrant broad use at this time.”

“We are working on mapping out our options to make access to investigational Remdesivir more widely available through appropriate channels, should it demonstrate the potential to be a safe and effective treatment option,” it added.

Remdesivir is an investigational nucleotide analogue (a drug that mimics, modifies and disrupts a virus’ genetic make up) with broad-spectrum antiviral activity that has not been approved globally.

It has shown effectiveness in vitro and in animals against viral pathogens like MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus) and SARS, which are are structurally similar to the novel coronavirus from Wuhan. — China Daily/ANN

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