Study confirms remdesivir shortens COVID-19 illness

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(CNN) - The antiviral drug remdesivir shortens the duration of illness even among non-White patients, who have a higher risk of severe disease, doctors reported Wednesday.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, adds to evidence the drug can relieve the burden of coronavirus illness, even if it’s not a cure.

Remdesivir, sold under the brand name Veklury, was approved in October. It was the first drug to get full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for use in treating COVID-19.

“Receipt of remdesivir was associated with faster clinical improvement in a cohort of predominantly non-White patients,” Dr. Brian Garibaldi of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and colleagues wrote in their report. Garibaldi was among the team of doctors who treated then-President Trump for a coronavirus infection last year.

The team looked at the records of 2,483 patients with COVID-19 treated in the Johns Hopkins system. Of those, 342 received remdesivir, and 184 of these patients also received corticosteroids.

And while patients given remdesivir were less likely to die, the findings on this were not statistically significant, the team said.

Only very ill patients got remdesivir – those with low oxygen levels and indications of organ damage.

“Our study included a much higher percentage of patients from underrepresented minority groups than previous remdesivir clinical trials. Approximately 80% of patients in our cohort were non-White individuals compared with 30% to 47% in clinical trials,” the team wrote.

“Because underrepresented minority groups have shouldered a disproportionate burden during the COVID-19 pandemic but have not been widely represented in clinical trials, our results provide important evidence that receipt of remdesivir is associated with decreased time to clinical improvement in these populations," they wrote.

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