The investigational antiviral drug, manufactured by Gilead Sciences Inc., was shown in a preliminary analysis of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial to shorten recovery time in some patients, according to information presented during a White House press conference earlier this week. However, the results of the trial have not been published and little is known about how safe and effective it is in treating people in the hospital with COVID-19.
The emergency use authorization (EUA) designation means remdesivir can be distributed in the United States and administered intravenously by healthcare providers, as appropriate to treat severe disease. Those with severe disease, the FDA said in a press release, are patients with low blood oxygen levels or those who need oxygen therapy or more intensive support such as a mechanical ventilator.
“There’s tremendous interest among all parties to identify and arm ourselves with medicines to combat COVID-19, and through our Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program, the FDA is working around-the-clock and using every tool at our disposal to speed these efforts,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD, said in a statement.
The FDA writes, “Based on evaluation of the emergency use authorization criteria and the scientific evidence available, it was determined that it is reasonable to believe that remdesivir may be effective in treating COVID-19, and that, given there are no adequate, approved, or available alternative treatments, the known and potential benefits to treat this serious or life-threatening virus currently outweigh the known and potential risks of the drug’s use.”
The drug must be administered intravenously and the optimal dosing and duration are not yet known, the company said in a press release issued May 1.
In addition, Gilead advises that infusion-related reactions and liver transaminase elevations have been seen in patients treated with the drug.
“If signs and symptoms of a clinically significant infusion reaction occur, immediately discontinue administration of remdesivir and initiate appropriate treatment. Patients should have appropriate clinical and laboratory monitoring to aid in early detection of any potential adverse events. Monitor renal and hepatic function prior to initiating and daily during therapy with remdesivir; additionally monitor serum chemistries and hematology daily during therapy,” the company said.
Before granting the emergency use authorization, the FDA had allowed for study of the drug in clinical trials, as well as expanded access use for individual patients and through a multipatient expanded access program coordinated by Gilead.
“The EUA will be effective until the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of the emergency use of drugs and biologics for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 is terminated and may be revised or revoked if it is determined the EUA no longer meets the statutory criteria for issuance,” the FDA said.
This article first appeared on Medscape.com.