US anti-viral drug provides hope of MAJOR breakthrough in finding cure to COVID-19

The drug in question is remdesvir and is produced by the California-based company Gilead Sciences. Such has been the interest in the treatment that the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced that it will extend its trials, which have nearly reached its stated goal of 440 patients. Remdesvir has been used in the past to treat patients suffering from other coronavirus related illnesses, such as severs acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

The medication was used to treat the first known American to be infected with COVID-19, after he became seriously ill with pneumonia.

Dr Jag Singh, a heart specialist at Massachusetts General, fell ill with the disease and was admitted to the hospital for treatment.

He became fearful for his life after seeing X-rays of his diseased lungs, whereupon he was offered the opportunity to take part in the anti-viral drug trials.

Dr Singh said that it never crossed his mind to say “no”, and he was added to the trial along with 30 others by a colleague Dr Libby Hohmann.

The heart specialist has since recovered sufficiently to be allowed back home to continue his recuperation.

The medication is administered through an IV and attacks the enzyme that allows the virus to reproduce its genetic coding.

In animal tests against SARS and MERS, the drug reduced the severity of the symptoms when given early enough in the course of the illness.

The drug is further along in testing than any other type of treatment and could sson be approved for general public use.

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Gilead has announced that it plans to distribute 1.5 million doses for free, which could mean hundreds of thousands of treatment courses.

It has currently given remdesvir to more than 1,700 patients on a case by case emergency basis and will hand out more once it has been officially approved.

Chief executive Dan O’Day said: “Many people have reached out to Gilead to advocate for access to remdesivir on behalf of friends and loved ones.

“I can only imagine how it must feel to be in that situation. We are taking the ethical, responsible approach.”

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The company supplied the anti-viral drug for two studies in China and expects to get the results back by the end of this month.

It has also initiated two more trials for hospitalised patients in the US, Asia, Europe and elsewhere.

A lack of a known cure has created desperation among those stricken by the deadly virus, that they are prepared to try any experimental treatment offered.

Dr Arun Sanyal, the study leader at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, said: “There’s so much anxiety about the disease that the patients are quite interested and no one offered the chance has refused.”

Dr Hohmann said that rigorous testing was still essential despite the panic and the need for a quick solution to the health crisis.

She confessed that it was particularly hard to face patients with no proven therapy to hand.

“The worst thing is seeing some really young people who are really, really sick, such as a 49-year-old man with three young children on life support,” Dr Hohmann said.

“That’s pretty awful.”

It comes as the number of deaths from coronavirus in the US approaches almost 11,000, with over 350,000 cases of the disease recorded nationwide.

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