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Gilead’s Ebola drug repurposed to treat Covid-19




Gilead Sciences is based at Granta Park
Gilead Sciences is based at Granta Park

Gilead Sciences’ Ebola drug, remdesivir, will be used in the treatment of “adults and adolescents hospitalised with severe coronavirus infection who meet additional clinical criteria”, the government has announced.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) yesterday (May 26) the first positive scientific opinion under the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) for use of remdesivir, which was originally developed as a treatment for Ebola during the 2013 outbreak.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the Granta Park-based biopharmaceutical company has made “probably the biggest step forward” in the treatment of coronavirus since the crisis began, adding that the use of the drug on the front line of the crisis was very early steps”.

Last month the US conducted a federal trial, as a result of which Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the Maryland-based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the drug could modestly speed recovery in patients infected with the coronavirus. A preliminary report found that “those who received remdesivir had a median recovery time of 11 days, as compared with 15 days in those who received a placebo”.

Having been demonstrated to slow the symptoms of the coronavirus in seriously ill patients, remdesivir - which had shown early promise at stopping the Ebola virus from replicating in clinical trials but was never approved - will now be used to treat some NHS patients.

At the Downing Street briefing on May 26, Mr Hancock said: “This is probably the biggest step forward in the treatment of coronavirus since the crisis begun.

“These are early steps but we’re determined to support the science and back the projects that show promise.

“As you can understand, we’ll be prioritising the use of this treatment where it can provide the greatest benefit.”

At Addenbrooke’s, The Rosie Hospital with, from left, chief nurse Lorraine Szeremeta, health minister Matt Hancock, and Roland Sinker, Addenbrooke’s chief executive officer. Picture: Keith Heppell
At Addenbrooke’s, The Rosie Hospital with, from left, chief nurse Lorraine Szeremeta, health minister Matt Hancock, and Roland Sinker, Addenbrooke’s chief executive officer. Picture: Keith Heppell

Lord Bethell, minister for innovation, said: “This shows fantastic progress. As we navigate this unprecedented period, we must be on the front foot of the latest medical advancements, while always ensuring patient safety remains a top priority.

“The latest, expert scientific advice is at the heart of every decision we make, and we will continue to monitor remdesivir’s success in clinical trials across the country to ensure the best results for UK patients.

The chief executive ofthe MHRA, Dr June Raine, said: “We are committed to ensuring that patients can have fast access to promising new treatments for Covid-19.

“We will continue to work closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and other healthcare partners on protecting public health in the UK by prioritising our essential work on clinical trials, access to medicines, and the development of vaccines.”

Gilead Sciences, which has its global HQ in California, declined to comment when approached.



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