News from a Chicago hospital has become music to the ears of people around the world amidst the growing spread of COVID-19 and concomitant deaths. The two immediate responses to the report were a massive jump in US stock futures and a notable rise in the share prices of Gilead Sciences Inc, which makes the anti-Ebola drug Remdesivir.
STAT News reported on late April 16 quoting an infectious disease specialist associated with a Chicago hospital that severe COVID-19 patients who were being treated with antiviral drug Remdesivir “in a closely watched clinical trial” saw “rapid recoveries” in fever and respiratory symptoms. STAT also said nearly all patients in this trial were discharged in less than a week, signalling that the Gilead drug could become the first approved treatment to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. STAT is an an American health-oriented news website.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 854 points on Thursday, following this report. Besides, Gilead shares soared by 16.41% thanks to the report, which cited a video clip of a discussion of the trial at the Chicago hospital. Gilead, the American biotechnology company, is also developing drug cocktails as a cure for HIV, and has developed drugs for hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Remdesivir is not currently available in India. But because the country is participating in the WHO-led “Solidarity” trial, it will soon get access to the drug. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had confirmed some weeks that that India would be part of the multi-country “Solidarity trial”.
The “Solidarity” programme, according to WHO’s own definition, is an international clinical trial by the organization and its partners to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19. The WHO website says, “The Solidarity trial will compare four treatment options against standard of care, to assess their relative effectiveness against COVID-19. By enrolling patients in multiple countries, the Solidarity trial aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs slow disease progression or improve survival.”
The STAT report, which is now creating ripples worldwide, quoted Kathleen Mullane, the University of Chicago infectious disease specialist “overseeing the Remdesivir studies for the hospital”, as saying, “The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish.” STAT quoted her from a “video discussion about the trial results with other University of Chicago faculty members”.
Similar trials using Remdesivir are on at other institutions as well and if the treatment using the drug is found to be safe and effective, it would soon get the approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Scientists and doctors Open spoke to in India said that that they will wait for the whole data of clinical trials to come out before making any comments. Dr Able Lawrence, a professor of clinical immunology & rheumatology at Lucknow’s Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, says that he is cautiously optimistic about this development. “We need more randomized control trials so as to eliminated sources of bias (when testing the effectiveness of new treatments).”
On his part, Dr Anoop Kumar AS, Consultant Intensivist and Chief, Critical Care Medicine at Baby Memorial Hospital, Kozhikode, who is a member of expert panel helping the Kerala state government with battling the COVID-19 pandemic, tells Open, “All the drugs used in COVID treatment are still at an experimental stage.” The award-winning medic confirms that India can get this drug by being part of the “Solidarity” trial of WHO.