Experimental antiviral US drug raises hopes of Covid treatment

A University of Chicago hospital, participating in a study of a US company’s experimental antiviral drug, has said it is seeing rapid recoveries among a group of Covid-19 patients’ fever and respiratory symptoms, medical news website STAT reported.

The report cited a video made by a researcher at the University of Chicago who is helping conduct a trial of Gilead’s drug remdesivir. The researcher, infectious disease professor Kathleen Mullane, said most patients had been discharged from the hospital and two had died. Gilead’s drug is one of the most-watched therapies being studied for treatment of Covid-19 patients. It’s conducting two trials of the drug in moderate and severe patients, with the goal of enrolling 4,000 people in the trials. The University of Chicago enrolled 125 patients, most of whom had severe disease, according to Stat.

The University of Chicago warned against forming conclusions from the limited data and said the information had been released without authorisation. “Partial data from an ongoing clinical trial is by definition incomplete and should never be used to draw conclusions about the safety or efficacy of a potential treatment that is under investigation,” a spokeswoman Lorna Wong said in a statement. “Drawing any conclusions at this point is premature and scientifically unsound.”

Analysts say the report shows encouraging evidence on the drug’s efficacy, but it’s too early to judge its true potential. “We are cautiously optimistic...,” Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Alethia Young wrote in a note.

Research on remdesivir’s potential to treat Covid-19 first began in February, at the peak of China’s virus outbreak. Chinese researchers had initially planned to enroll more than 700 patients in Wuhan with mild to severe symptoms to evaluate the drug’s safety and efficacy and said it would announce the trial results on April 27. But with China’s epidemic ebbing, researchers have not been able to find enough qualifying patients to reach the trial’s original enrollment target, according to a clinical trial registry.

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