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What to know about the COVID-19 treatment remdesivir

A group of medical vials.

An antiviral drug that failed to treat hepatitis C and the Ebola virus may help treat the novel coronavirus instead.

The drug is called remdesivir. It's not a cure for COVID-19. But in a clinical trial it was found to lead to a faster recovery for some patients.

Who's it for?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has OK'd the drug for emergency use. It can only be used for patients in the hospital with severe cases of COVID-19. But it can be used in both adults and children.

Who makes it?

Remdesivir is made by the U.S. drug company Gilead Sciences, Inc. It was first created to treat hepatitis C and a respiratory virus but didn't work well enough. Gilead then turned the drug's sights on the new coronavirus.

How does it work?

Remdesivir is given by IV infusion over a course of about 5 to 10 days. How long it's given depends on how ill the patient is. In the study of the drug, it shortened recovery time from about 15 days to about 11 days.

FDA's emergency use approval means the potential benefits of the drug outweigh its potential risks, but it does have some side effects.

Possible side effects of remdesivir infusion include:

  • Liver damage.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Sweating.
  • Shivering.

Certain medicines can reduce the effectiveness of remdesivir, so tell your provider about everything else you take before receiving remdesivir.

A treatment is not a cure

Scientists are still trying to find other treatments for COVID-19, and work to develop a vaccine for the virus continues.

In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to continue social distancing and to wear face masks in public to prevent spread of the disease.

Reviewed 7/1/2020

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