Repurposed antiviral drugs for COVID-19 –interim WHO SOLIDARITY trial results

The United States reached a milestone last week when the FDA approved the first treatment for Covid-19. The drug is called Veklury, although most people know it by its scientific name, remdesivir. The product was originally developed as a treatment for Ebola and hepatitis C.

Its manufacturer Gilead Sciences announced this week that the drug has earned in $873 million in revenues so far this year.

Remdesivir was seen as one of the brightest hopes in the dark days of March and April when doctors had few tools to treat the new disease. More than six months later, enthusiasm has fizzled. The FDA’s decision to grant full approval to remdesivir - on the heels of a recent WHO study that suggested the treatment may not actually increase survival - is raising questions about the broader value of the drug.

As well, two additional trials in China have found little benefit to the drug. None of the studies have found it can improve survival.

With no meaningful impact on survival, and mixed reviews on pricing, its important to recognize that a FDA approval does not guarantee a certain level of benefit.

The study, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, was released by medRxiv (founded by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory).