Gilead Sciences announced Wednesday that a division of the National Institutes of Health will be releasing positive early results of a clinical trial of its drug remdesivir, a potential treatment for coronavirus, sending markets sharply up at opening of trading.
“Gilead Sciences is aware of positive data emerging from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) study of the investigational antiviral remdesivir for the treatment of covid-19,” the company said in an early-morning statement. “We understand that the trial has met its primary endpoint and that NIAID will provide detailed information at an upcoming briefing.”
Gilead did not provide specifics or characterize the results in the brief statement. NIAID confirmed it planned an announcement later Wednesday at a briefing by President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force.
Remdesivir was invented by Gilead a decade ago and has shown promise against a variety of viruses in laboratory and animal experiments. If shown to prevent people from dying and being put on ventilators, it could give health officials and political leaders greater confidence as they seek to reopen the economy.
The NIAID study is the most rigorous test to date of the potential treatment because it is a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the gold standard for seeing if a drug is safe and effective. A cohort of patients receive a dummy treatment instead of the real drug, without patients and treating doctors knowing which one the patients are getting. It provides the best comparison of how people treated with the drug fared in relation to those who did not get the drug.
In a separate statement, Gilead released some results of its own clinical trial that showed a five-day course of treatment of remdesivir produced similar results to 10 days of treatment.
The finding is a sign that, if approved, more people could receive limited supplies of the drug and that patients could spend less time in the hospital. Gilead said it plans to submit the full data for publication in a peer-reviewed journal in the coming weeks.
“The study demonstrates the potential for some patients to be treated with a 5-day regimen, which could significantly expand the number of patients who could be treated with our current supply of remdesivir,” Merdad Parsey, Gilead’s chief medical officer, said in a news release. “This is particularly important in the setting of a pandemic, to help hospitals and health care workers treat more patients in urgent need of care. ”
Gilead also said that people who were given the drug within 10 days of first showing symptoms fared somewhat better than patients who were given the drug later. “By Day 14, 62 percent of patients treated early were able to be discharged from the hospital, compared with 49 percent of patients who were treated late,” the company said.