A vial of remdesivir.

Associated Press

A leading coronavirus treatment candidate succeeded in a critical trial, the biotechnology company Gilead Sciences said on Wednesday.

The antiviral drug remdesivir is being tested in several ongoing trials in COVID-19 patients. Gilead said that one of these studies, run by the US’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, found that the drug worked.

“We understand that the trial has met its primary endpoint,” Gilead said in a statement, adding that the institute would provide more details at a briefing.

The company also released data from its own study that suggested a five-day treatment course worked just as well as a 10-day regimen. This trial, however, lacked a control group to compare results against.

There are no drugs approved to treat COVID-19. Gilead did not say whether it planned to file for approval for remdesivir.

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A leading coronavirus treatment candidate succeeded in a critical trial, the biotechnology company Gilead Sciences said on Wednesday.

The antiviral drug remdesivir is being tested in several ongoing trials in COVID-19 patients. Gilead said that one of these studies, run by the US National Institutes of Health, found that the drug worked. The company didn’t provide additional data from that study.

“We understand that the trial has met its primary endpoint,” Gilead said in a statement, meaning patients who took remdesivir recovered more quickly than those taking a placebo.

The company said that the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would provide more information at a briefing. A representative for the institute said it didn’t have any further information to provide right now but was planning an announcement.

Remdesivir has become a leading treatment candidate as other repurposed drugs have largely disappointed with early study results. Gilead’s drug has not been approved to treat any diseases but was previously tried in Ebola patients.

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Having an effective treatment would be a significant milestone in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. So far, doctors have been testing unproven drugs in COVID-19 patients.

Remdesivir is given as an IV infusion and has been tested only in hospitalized patients. The drug has not been tested as a preventive treatment or as a way to help people with mild cases of COVID-19.

Gilead’s announcement boosted the stock market on Wednesday morning. The S&P 500 rose about 2% as the biotech’s shares jumped 5%.

Gilead on Wednesday also released data from its own trial of five-day and 10-day regimens of remdesivir in 397 patients with severe forms of COVID-19. This study did not compare patients who got the drug with patients who got a placebo, making the results more difficult to interpret.

Merdad Parsey, Gilead’s chief medical officer, said Gilead’s results complemented the data from the NIH’s placebo-controlled trial and were intended to help figure out the right dose to give patients. The trial generated similar results for patients treated with the five-day course and those treated with the 10-day course, Gilead said.

“The study demonstrates the potential for some patients to be treated with a 5-day regimen, which could significantly expand the number of patients who could be treated with our current supply of remdesivir,” Parsey said in a statement.

Using a five-day course could effectively double the number of patients who could be treated with the available supply of remdesivir. The company has already started ramping up manufacturing capacity, planning to pump out more than 1 million courses by the end of the year.

Beyond the finding that the two treatment durations produced similar results, conclusions from Gilead’s study are limited by its design. Since there was no control arm, it’s difficult to determine just from this data whether remdesivir helped patients.

For instance, the trial found that slightly more than half of the enrolled patients left the hospital within two weeks of starting treatment — but it’s difficult to know how meaningful that finding is in a disease where most patients recover on their own anyway.

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