White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that the experimental drug Remdesivir has a proven benefit in treating coronavirus patients, saying the drug is a “highly significant” breakthrough that will improve COVID-19 treatment.
Fauci expressed genuine excitement over the results, calling them “reminiscent of 34 years ago in 1986” when his team uncovered the first drug to show a modest impact on the virus that causes AIDS — research that was built upon over subsequent years to find HIV drug cocktails, reports NBC News.
“So, when I was looking at this data with our team the other night, it was reminiscent of 34 years ago in 1986 when we were struggling for drugs for HIV,” Fauci said at the White House on Wednesday.
“And we had nothing,” he said. “And there was a lot of anecdotal reports about things that maybe did work, maybe not. People were taking different kinds of drugs. And we did the first randomized placebo control trial with AZT which turned out to give an effect that was modest.”
“But that was not the end game because building on that – every year after, we did better and better,” he said. “We had better drugs of the same type and we had drugs against different targets.”
“The data shows that Remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” Fauci told reporters. The data he referred to is from a large study of more than 1,000 patients from multiple sites around the world. Patients either received the drug, called remdesivir, or a placebo.
Results from clinical trials are typically published in medical journals after review from outside experts but Fauci said that Remdesivir’s results were so promising, there is “an ethical obligation to immediately let the placebo group know so they can have access” to the drug.
Fauci said the Remdesivir study group was able to be discharged from the hospital within 11 days, on average, compared to 15 days in the placebo group.
“What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” Fauci said.
There were indications the drug led to fewer deaths, but that part of the analysis is still under review.