Remdesivir, the only antiviral drug authorized for treatment of Covid-19 in the United States, fails to prevent deaths among patients, according to a study of more than 11,000 people sponsored by the World Health Organization.
“This puts the issue to rest — there is certainly no mortality benefit,” said Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta in Canada.
The drug was granted emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration in May following a trial by the National Institutes of Health, which found that remdesivir modestly reduced the time to recovery in patients severely ill with Covid-19.
But that study, too, indicated that remdesivir did not prevent deaths, and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged that it was not a “knockout” drug.
A final analysis, published this month in The New England Journal of Medicine, suggested “a trend toward reduced mortality” in certain patients receiving remdesivir, according to the drug’s maker, Gilead.
Still, the antiviral has become part of the standard of care for Covid-19 patients in the United States, and has been administered to thousands of patients since its approval, including President Trump.
The W.H.O.’s study, called the Solidarity trial, enrolled 11,266 adults with Covid-19 in 405 hospitals in 30 countries. The participants were given four drugs singly or in combination: remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir, interferon or interferon plus lopinavir. About 4,100 received no drug treatment.
In the end, no drug or combination reduced mortality, the chances that mechanical ventilation would be needed, or time spent in the hospital, compared with the patients who were not given drug treatment.
Dr. Maricar Malinis, an infectious disease physician at Yale University, said the new remdesivir findings were not terribly surprising, but were “still impactful” in their support of previous findings, especially given the dizzying size of the Solidarity trial.