Canadian trial: remdesivir reduces need for ventilation by half for COVID patients
A Canadian study suggests the antiviral medication remdesivir could have a “modest but significant effect” on COVID-19 patient outcomes, including decreasing the need for mechanical ventilation by approximately 50 per cent.
The study, published Wednesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, is billed as the largest single-country trial of remdesivir reported to date.
Results are part of a larger study called the World Health Organization Solidarity, a randomized, controlled trial evaluating remdesivir’s impact on COVID-19 patients.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto recruited 1,282 patients at 52 hospitals between Aug. 14, 2020 and April 1, 2021. Roughly half received a 10-day course of remdesivir while the other half got the usual level of care.
Among participants not on ventilation at the start of the study, eight per cent of the remdesivir group — 46 patients — went on to require a ventilator compared to 15 per cent, or 89 patients, who received standard care.
The study also found patients on remdesivir came off oxygen and ventilators sooner.
Evidence has been mixed on the effect of remdesivir in people with COVID-19. The World Health Organization recommended against using it to treat the virus in November 2020, saying at the time “there is currently no evidence that remdesivir improves survival and other outcomes.”
Remdesivir, which is administered intravenously, is a repurposed antiviral medication originally developed to treat hepatitis C.
Dr. Robert Fowler, a senior scientist at Sunnybrook and co-author of the study, said earlier recommendations against remdesivir stemmed from premature data that didn’t show a statistically significant impact on COVID-19 patients.