Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious diseases expert, told Reuters Wednesday that he unveiled the initial results of a federal remdesivir trial out of concerns that the information could be leaked⁠—along with ethical obligations to patients taking placebos⁠—as the drug appeared to show shorter recovery times in coronavirus patients.

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Anthony Fauci discusses remdesivir trial results from the Oval Office Wednesday.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

KEY FACTS

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Reuters that a Tuesday night conference call was convened to share the initial results of the drug trial with scientists.

“There are literally dozens and dozens of investigators around the world,” Fauci told Reuters, adding, “People were starting to leak it.”

According to Reuters, concerns over the leaks led Fauci to announce the results in a Wednesday Oval Office news conference (there was no task force briefing scheduled at the White House).

During the announcement, Fauci said he had an ethical obligation to reveal that remdesivir appeared to shorten recovery times, so patients taking a placebo could have access to it.

The study has not yet been peer reviewed, and the full set of data from the federal trial has not yet been released; that should come within the next few days.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the Food and Drug Administration could soon grant an emergency approval for remdesivir.

Chief critic

“Am I encouraged from what I’ve heard? Yes, I’m encouraged,” Cleveland Clinic Chief Academic Officer Steven Nissan told Reuters. “But I want to get a full understanding of what happened here, and not get it via a photo opportunity from the Oval Office.” 

Key background

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug and one of many treatments being tested against COVID-19. (There is no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19). It previously has shown to prevent infection as well as reduce the severity of symptoms in SARS and MERS, two other coronaviruses. In the initial trial results announced by Fauci, remdesivir blocked an enzyme the COVID-19 virus uses, leading to a shorter recovery time (11 days) in coronavirus patients, compared to the placebo group (15 days). The data also suggested a slightly lower mortality rate in severe cases, at 8%, compared to the 11.6% in the placebo group. A smaller study released Wednesday by Gilead Sciences, Inc., which makes remdesivir, showed little difference in outcomes between patients given a 10-day course of the drug versus a 5-day course. Gilead said its study will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

What to watch for

NIAD’s release of the federal trial data. And whether the FDA grants an emergency use authorization for remdesivir.

Further reading

Gilead’s Antiviral Remdesivir Had A Good Day – But It’s Still Not Clear How Effective It Is Against COVID-19 (Forbes)

Fauci Says Remdesivir Reduces Recovery Time For Coronavirus Patients (Forbes)

Gilead Says Trial Of Antiviral Remdesivir Shows ‘Positive Data’ In Coronavirus Patients (Forbes)

Leaked Study Data Finds No Benefits Of Remdesivir On Coronavirus Patients, Sending Gilead Stock Tumbling (Forbes)

Gilead’s Drug Remdesivir Shows Hope In Treating Coronavirus Patients, But Data Is Limited (Forbes)

Gilead Stock Jumps 8% After Coronavirus Drug Remdesivir Shows ‘Rapid Recoveries’ In Clinical Trials (Forbes)

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