Row breaks out over WHO trial casting doubt on remdesivir as COVID-19 drug
ZURICH/GENEVA (Reuters) – A row broke out on Friday over a World Health Organization (WHO) clinical trial which concluded that the anti-viral drug remdesivir has little or no impact on a patient’s chances of surviving COVID-19.
Gilead Sciences Inc., the U.S. company that developed the drug, said the findings appeared inconsistent with evidence from other studies validating the clinical benefit of remdesivir, which was used to treat U.S. President Donald Trump’s coronavirus infection.
“We are concerned the data from this open-label global trial has not undergone the rigorous review required to allow for constructive scientific discussion,” Gilead said.
But Richard Peto, an independent statistician hired by the WHO to scrutinize the results of its Solidarity trial, dismissed Gilead’s criticism.
“It’s a reliable result, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, because they’ll try to,” Peto told reporters. “This is real world evidence.”
The results of the trial, announced by the WHO on Thursday, dealt a blow to one of the few drugs being used to treat people with COVID-19.
The U.N. health agency said remdesivir appeared to have little or no effect on keeping people alive or on the length of hospital stays among patients with the respiratory disease.
Its trial was conducted on 11,266 adult patients in over 30 countries and its findings may shift the focus of treatments away from antivirals such as remdesivir to new monoclonal antibodies which the WHO has said could be added to its studies.
In addition to remdesivir, Trump received Regeneron’s experimental monoclonal antibody infection. But another U.S. company, Eli Lilly and Co, said on Tuesday a trial of its own COVID-19 antibody treatment had been paused over safety concerns.
“FAR FROM WON”
Gilead, which quickly repurposed what it had developed as an Ebola drug when the COVID-19 pandemic began, said that other, smaller remdesivir trials showed the treatment cut COVID-19 recovery time by five days and helped reduce the risk of death in some patients who were getting oxygen.