Gilead Sciences Inc.
said on Friday that it had provided doses of an experimental antiviral drug to doctors for the emergency treatment of a small number of patients infected by the new coronavirus.
Gilead, based in Foster City, Calif., also said it has formalized an agreement with Chinese authorities to conduct a clinical trial of the drug remdesivir in patients infected with the coronavirus.
Health authorities have been searching for a treatment for China coronavirus infections, which lack an approved drug or vaccine. Several drugmakers have said they are trying to develop a vaccine, which could prevent but not treat infections.
Researchers had been hoping to study whether Gilead’s remdesivir and other antivirals could work as treatments.
Unlike some of the other antivirals being examined, Gilead’s drug isn’t approved for use in humans by regulators in the U.S. or internationally. Unapproved drugs are sometimes put into use or in testing in emergencies when health authorities believe the drug could help patients who otherwise lack good treatments.
Separately, the drug was administered to an infected patient in Washington state, researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday. The man, 35 years old, had traveled to Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak started, and after returning to the U.S. was the first person in the country to test positive for the China coronavirus.
The patient was given remdesivir on the seventh day of his hospitalization, Jan. 26, and the following day the patient’s clinical condition improved. As of Jan. 30, the patient remains hospitalized, but “all symptoms have resolved with the exception of his cough, which is decreasing in severity,” the researchers wrote.
On the day he was treated with the Gilead drug, the patient’s fever reached 39.4 degrees Celsius (102.9 degrees Fahrenheit). The following day it dropped to 37.3 degrees Celsius (99.1 degrees Fahrenheit) and declined into the normal range over subsequent days, the paper said.
“Before treatment he had high fevers and was getting sicker,” George Diaz, the patient’s attending physician at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, said in an interview on Friday. “After treatment, he had reduced fevers and no longer required oxygen. His lungs cleared up, and he generally felt better.”
Dr. Diaz cautioned, however, that the drug has to be studied in large clinical trials to determine whether it is an effective treatment for the coronavirus.
A Gilead spokeswoman declined to say how many patients are receiving the drug or where they are based. In clinical trials of Ebola patients, the drug was less effective than rival treatments. In animal studies, the drug helped lessen lung disease in mice infected with Middle East respiratory syndrome, a coronavirus known as MERS.
Write to Joseph Walker at [email protected]
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