UK adopts Remdesivir drug for the treatment Covid-19
London, May 27, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Remdesivir, a drug that reduces recovery time from Covid-19 will be made available to a number of NHS patients in UK in “probably the biggest step forward in the treatment of coronavirus” since the pandemic began, the UK health secretary has said.
Matt Hancock on Tuesday welcomed the authorisation of the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir, which has been shown to reduce recovery time for patients in hospital with Covid-19 from 15 days to 11 days.
Made by the US company Gilead Sciences, and initially pioneered for the treatment of the Ebola virus, the drug was granted emergency authorisation for Covid-19 by the US and Japan early this month.
Now the UK has followed suit. The drug is to be made available to carefully selected NHS patients through the Early Access to Medicines Scheme, a programme that allows medicines to be used in emergency situations before they have been licensed, the drugs provided free by the company.
Remdesivir has been the subject of trials around the world in treating Covid-19, with mixed results. A trial in China that was terminated early on found little sign of benefit from the drug, although experts say that could be due to the small number of participants involved.
More promising was an international trial, which found it reduced the median recovery period of patients in hospital with Covid-19 from 15 days to 11 days.
Hancock told the Downing Street press briefing that the drug had given promising early results and that if the UK trials were successful health officials would be prioritising the use of the treatment where it would provide the greatest benefit.
He warned that only very early steps had been taken in the trial but added: “This is probably the biggest step forward in the treatment of coronavirus since the crisis began.”
Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that the NHS had secured the drug on a provisional licence lasting a year, unless renewed, and that it meant the drug could be accessed legally while unlicensed.
He warned: “The amount of evidence on remdesivir’s efficacy and safety is still limited and it’s possible it will not become [fully] licensed. It is also not a recommendation for use. But it does allow clinicians to use the medicine outside one of the ongoing randomised trials without fear of it being regarded as bad practice.”
Lord Bethell, the minister for innovation, said the government would continue to monitor results from clinical trials involving remdesivir.
Not all NHS patients will be eligible for the drug. Evans said: “It is for the treatment of adults and adolescent patients hospitalised with suspected or laboratory confirmed Covid-19 infection and severe disease, so it is not for use in general practice nor for prevention of disease in those who do not have Covid-19.”
The Department for Health and Social Care said: “Allocation of the drug will be based on expert clinical advice and will take into consideration the situation where it is most likely to provide the greatest benefit.”
Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at the University of Oxford, who is running the “Recovery” trial to find drugs to treat Covid-19 and was involved in the remdesivir trial in China, said the drug was a promising one.