Data on Gilead drug raises hopes, Fauci calls it 'highly significant'

Gilead Sciences on Wednesday delivered encouraging news about trials for its antiviral drug remdesivir to treat Covid-19, saying it helped improve outcomes for patients and provided data suggesting it worked better when given earlier in the course of infection. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, SAYING: "The data shows that remdesivir has a clear cut, significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery." The nation's top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, welcomed the results at the White House on Wednesday, saying this is significant because it shows "a drug can block the virus." (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, SAYING: "We think it's really opening the door to the fact that we now have the capability of treating. And I can guarantee you, as more people, more companies, more investigators, get involved, it's gonna get better and better." Gilead provided updates on two clinical studies currently underway. In a trial run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Gilead said that remdesivir met its main goal of helping patients with the disease. Anticipation ran high for results from that study since it compares how patients who received remdesivir fared versus those who did not take the drug. Gilead also provided data on another study that it has conducted in dozens of medical centers, which found 62% of patients treated early with remdesivir improved and were discharged from the hospital, compared with 49% of patients who were treated late. That study did not compare the use of remdesivir against a placebo but measured when the patients started taking the drug and found earlier was better than later. And in a new development, the New York Times reported that the FDA – plans to announce as early as Wednesday an emergency use authorization of remdesivir. There's strong interest in Gilead's drug since no approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19 exist and doctors are desperate for anything that might alter the course of the disease. Dr. Fauci said when he first saw the data it reminded him of the fight against HIV. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, SAYING: "It was reminiscent of 34 years ago in 1986 when we were struggling for drugs for HIV and we had nothing...And we did the first randomized placebo controlled trial with AZT, which turned out to give an effect that was modest. But that was not the end game, because building on that every year after we did better and better." Fauci said the study still needs to be peer-reviewed and he also said that while the study showed a clear cut benefit in recovery time, it did not show a significant reduction in mortality.