A drug which is said to cut the recovery time of patients with COVID-19 is to be made available in limited quantities on the NHS, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday. Originally developed for the the treatment of ebola, remdesivir has been shown to cut recovery time in hospital from 15 to 11 days, and is already in use in the US and Japan. Annpincing the news at Tuesday’s COVID briefing Mr Hancock described the drug as 'Probably the biggest step forward in the treatment of coronavirus since the crisis began.'
Remdesivir, which is made by the US company Gilead Sciences, is to be made available through the Early Access to Medicines scheme which allows medicines to be prescribed before they have been officially licensed. Not all patients will be eligible for the drug initially, due to research still going on into its efficacy, and limited stocks.
Experts have given the news a cautious welcome. Dr Stephen Griffin of the University of Leeds Medical School told the BBC: ‘We ought not to expect the drug to immediately act as a magic bullet.
‘We can instead hope for improved recovery rates and a reduction in patient mortality, which we hope will benefit as many patients as possible.’
Testing of another drug, an anti-malarial called hydroxychloroquine much trumpeted by President Trump, has been halted by the WHO over safety fears. A paper published in the Lancet last week showed people taking it were at higher risk of death and heart problems.