A new study released Friday found that over 60 COVID-19 patients that were treated with an antiviral in a compassionate-use protocol saw improvement in oxygen-support and a low overall mortality rate. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 61 patients were given the antiviral Remdesivir on an individual compassionate basis for 26 days—meaning there was no control group and the cohort group was very small. About 68 percent of the patients who were given the antiviral, which has not yet been licensed nor deemed effective for the treatment of COVID-1, saw improvement in oxygen-support class, including 17 of 30 patients using a ventilator. At the end of the experiment, 25 patients were discharged and 7 patients died from complications associated with the virus. Despite the promising results, the compassion-use protocol, lack of a control group, and lack of large randomized trials of treatment may mean experts cannot draw definitive conclusions from the new data.
The study acknowledged these scientific holes, concluding that while the results were promising, measurement of the drug's efficiency will require “ongoing randomized, placebo-controlled trials of Remdesivir therapy.” “Currently there is no proven treatment for COVID-19. We cannot draw definitive conclusions from these data, but the observations from this group of hospitalized patients who received Remdesivir are hopeful," said Jonathan D. Grein, MD, Director of Hospital Epidemiology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and lead author of the journal article. “We look forward to the results of controlled clinical trials to potentially validate these findings.”