TORONTO - It is a glimmer of Hope for some, but still no solution. Health Canada approved the use of Remdesivir for treating Covid-19 patients. Not all of them; just those with severe pneumonia and who require extra oxygen to help them breathe.
Other countries and jurisdictions (the US, Europe, Japan, Singapore, and Australia) have also granted emergency and conditional authorization to treat such patients with Remdesivir.
As a drug/therapy Remdesivir is patented for use with other medical issues. However, medical researchers have recently identified some of its broad-spectrum antiviral properties. Studies show its effectiveness against certain viruses like the coronavirus.
The studies followed a controlled group of hospitalized Covid-19 patients who did not require the use of mechanical ventilation. Instead, the subject groups were treated with the antiviral medication and the results published in the New England Journal of Medicine in late May.
The study revealed that the antiviral drug improved outcomes in patients with moderate to severe Covid-19 symptoms. The recovery time was reduced by 31% for treated patients. They recovered within eleven days on average, versus 15 days for untreated patients.
The study cautions that Remdesivir is designed to help with respiratory infections. It does not prevent necessarily patient deaths. Nonetheless, a trend toward lower mortality was observed in patients treated with Remdesivir (7.1%) compared to those who received the placebo (11.9%) instead.
There are still limitations for the use of Remdesivir. It is only available as an IV (intravenous) drug and not as oral medication. Consequently, the treatment can only be applied in healthcare facilities where patients can be closely monitored.
The antiviral drug functions in a “relatively simple” fashion. As per the graphics attached on this page, Remdesivir interferes with the mechanism that certain viruses like Covid-19 use to replicate themselves. If the virus cannot reproduce, it cannot spread.
Still, there are several other factors of concern: cost and availability. A typical “course” (5—10 days) could cost well over $3,000, moreover, the global supply is low.
Until an effective vaccine is found, there is only one universally recognized effective strategy for dealing with Covid-19: do everything to avoid contagion.