FDA authorizes experimental drug remdesivir as coronavirus treatment

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization (EAU) of remdesivir as a treatment for coronavirus on Friday, citing promising test results.

“The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday. The EAU is not the same as approval, which requires more testing and peer review.

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Remdesivir was developed by pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences in 2013. The antiviral drug was originally designed to fight the Ebola virus. In the rush to develop new treatments for COVID-19, researchers turned to remdesivir, as it was previously shown as a promising drug for MERS and SARS. “It is currently the most promising antiviral drug in development for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” Dr. Melissa Maginnis, a research scientist from the University of Maine who specializes in molecular virology and viral pathogenesis, recently told Digital Trends.

Remdesivir vial
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved remdesivir as a treatment for coronavirus on Friday. (Photo by Ulrich Perrey/Pool/AFP via Getty Images) Ulrich Perrey / Getty

An antiviral drug, remdesivir prevents the SARS-CoV-2 virus from making copies of itself. Remdesivir is a nucleotide analog that mimics adenosine, a building block of RNA and DNA. When the virus infects a cell and starts copying itself, remdesivir takes the place of adenosine, interfering with the process.

Early study results released Wednesday showed promising results in treating patients with remdesivir versus a placebo. They had faster recovery rates, an average of 11 days versus 15. The difference in death rates were not statistically significant, according to The Washington Post.

The study only included 1,063 patients, so it remains to be seen how it will affect a wider range of individuals.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated remdesivir’s FDA status. The agency has authorized it for use as a COVID-19 treatment.

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