Early peek at data on Gilead coronavirus drug suggests patients are responding to treatment

By ADAM FEUERSTEIN @adamfeuerstein and MATTHEW HERPER @matthewherper APRIL 16, 2020

A vial of the remdesivir, an investigational drug from Gilead.GILEAD SCIENCES VIA AP

AChicago hospital treating severe Covid-19 patients with Gilead Sciences’ antiviral medicine remdesivir in a closely watched clinical trial is seeing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with nearly all patients discharged in less than a week, STAT has learned.

Remdesivir was one of the first medicines identified as having the potential to impact SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, in lab tests. The entire world has been waiting for results from Gilead’s clinical trials, and positive results would likely lead to fast approvals by the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies. If safe and effective, it could become the first approved treatment against the disease.

The University of Chicago Medicine recruited 125 people with Covid-19 into Gilead’s two Phase 3 clinical trials. Of those people, 113 had severe disease. All the patients have been treated with daily infusions of remdesivir. 

“The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish,” said Kathleen Mullane, the University of Chicago infectious disease specialist overseeing the remdesivir studies for the hospital.

Her comments were made this week during a video discussion about the trial results with other University of Chicago faculty members. The discussion was recorded and STAT obtained a copy of the video.

The outcomes offer only a snapshot of remdesivir’s effectiveness. The same trials are being run concurrently at other institutions, and it’s impossible to determine the full study results with any certainty. Still, no other clinical data from the Gilead studies have been released to date, and excitement is high. Last month, President Trump touted the potential for remdesivir — as he has for many still-unproven treatments — and said it “seems to have a very good result.”

In a statement Thursday, Gilead said: “What we can say at this stage is that we look forward to data from ongoing studies becoming available.”

Gilead had said to expect results for its trial involving severe cases in April. Mullane said during her presentation that data for the first 400 patients in the study would be “locked” by Gilead Thursday, meaning that results could come any day.

Mullane, while encouraged by the University of Chicago data, made clear her own hesitancy about drawing too many conclusions.

“It’s always hard,” she said, because the severe trial doesn’t include a placebo group for comparison. “But certainly when we start [the] drug, we see fever curves falling,” she said. “Fever is now not a requirement for people to go on trial, we do see when patients do come in with high fevers, they do [reduce] quite quickly. We have seen people come off ventilators a day after starting therapy. So, in that realm, overall our patients have done very well.”

She added: “Most of our patients are severe and most of them are leaving at six days, so that tells us duration of therapy doesn’t have to be 10 days. We have very few that went out to 10 days, maybe three,” she said.