COVID-19: A Promising Clinical Trial?

Across the country, doctors are conducting several clinical trials to assess the efficacy of possible COVID-19 treatments. STAT News reports that a Chicago hospital has seen promising results from Gilead Science’s antiviral drug remdesivir. The drug, initially developed to treat Ebola and Marburg infections, was among the first identified as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

Recent trials at the University of Chicago could point to a promising COVID-19 treatment.
Recent clinical trials suggest an Ebola treatment could help in the fight against COVID-19.

The Clinical Trial

Gilead’s Phase 3 trial began with 125 patients at the University of Chicago, 113 of which showed severe COVID-19 symptoms. Kathleen Mullane, a specialist overseeing the study, stated that, “The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged.” She adds that only two of the trial’s participants have died from COVID-19. The trial — which looks at treatment over five and ten-day windows — measures improvement on a seven-point scale. Death is considered the worst possible outcome and discharge from the hospital is the best.

These promising results come shortly after the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published similar findings. On April 10th, NEJM shared the results of ten-day remdesivir treatments in Canada, Japan, Europe, and the United States. Of the 53 patients treated with the drug, 68% saw their symptoms improve.

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The Path Forward

Gilead is still conducting two larger global studies, one focusing on patients with mild symptoms and the other focusing on more severe cases. Each includes over 1500 participants from more than 150 clinical trial sites.

Both Gilead and the University of Chicago are quick to discourage anyone from drawing any conclusions just yet. Speaking to Time, a university spokesperson said, “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.

While both the NEJM and Gilead studies are promising, neither study compared remdesivir to a placebo. This is considered an essential step in assessing the viability of new treatments. Americans should expect to wait several more months before comparative results are available. Until then, everyone is advised to comply with state and local social distancing guidelines.