COVID-19 patients treated with the drug remdesivir recovered quickly from severe illness in a study conducted at the University of Chicago, according to the medical website STAT News.
The study looked at 125 people diagnosed with COVID-19, 113 of whom had severe cases of the disease.
Kathleen Mullane, who is overseeing the remdesivir trial, said on a video conference with University of Chicago faculty members that patients in the study saw their fevers drop “quite quickly” when treated with the drug, which is developed by Gilead Sciences.
Many patients in the study have been able to leave the hospital within a week after treatment, she said.
“The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish,” Mullane said on the video, which was obtained by STAT News.
She added: “But certainly when we start [the] drug, we see fever curves falling.”
“We have seen people come off ventilators a day after starting therapy. So, in that realm, overall our patients have done very well,” she continued, adding that most patients in the study have left the hospital within six days of treatment.
The fatality rate for patients in the study appears far lower than that for coronavirus patients with severe disease as a whole. More than half of patients who are put in ICU with severe cases of the disease end up dying, according to some studies.
Researchers have held out hope that drugs like remdesivir could be repurposed to treat COVID-19.
The World Health Organization said in February that it showed potential as a treatment for COVID-19. President Donald Trump has also mentioned remdesivir as a possible therapeutic, along with hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug developed in the 1940s.
He directed the Food and Drug Administration on March 19 to speed up approval to allow both drugs to be used on a “compassionate use” basis to treat patients with severe cases of COVID-19.
Mullane cautioned during the video conference against jumping to conclusions. The study is not controlled, meaning that the outcome for the patients was not compared to a group of patients treated with a placebo, she noted.
The University of Chicago also warned against drawing broad results from the preliminary study.
“Partial data from an ongoing clinical trial is by definition incomplete and should never be used to draw conclusions about the safety or efficacy of a potential treatment that is under investigation,” the school said in a statement to CNN.
“In this case, information from an internal forum for research colleagues concerning work in progress was released without authorization. Drawing any conclusions at this point is premature and scientifically unsound.”
Clinical trials are underway for both drugs in hospitals around the world. Gilead is sponsoring trials at more than 150 sites across the globe, according to STAT News.
News of the study prompted a sharp rise in Gilead’s stock price. The California-based company’s shares spiked 10% at the opening of the stock market on Friday.