More testing required for antiviral remdesivir in treating COVID-19, say experts

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WASHINGTON, March 18 (Xinhua) -- The antiviral drug remdesivir has reportedly helped cure U.S. patients inflicted with COVID-19 in Japan, while some epidemiology experts have warned that it is too early to verify the real effects of the drug.

"The current tests of remdesivir in Japan and the United States seem promising. It is feasible to apply the drug as 'compassionate medicine' to patients infected with COVID-19," said Zhang Zuofeng, professor of epidemiology and associate dean for research at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"However, due to the lack of randomized double-blind clinical trials data, the effects of the drug is not scientifically convincing," Zhang told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday.

Although some patients recovered after taking the drug, it was difficult to say it was the drug that helped improve the condition, due to the lack of a control group, said Zhang.

Fourteen Americans, who contracted the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and were treated at Japanese hospitals, received the experimental drug from Gilead Sciences Inc., an assistant surgeon general and lung specialist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying.

Many of the patients, with an average age of 75, had a high chance of dying, but two weeks later nobody passed away and more than half recovered, said the specialist.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that there were no solid data to indicate remdesivir can improve clinical outcomes, even though the drug has been used to treat the disease.

The NIH reported in late February that a clinical trial to assess remdesivir in hospitalized COVID-19 patients has started at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. This marks the first U.S. study of an investigational drug to treat COVID-19.

"I am hopeful that as more data emerge from additional clinical experiences and clinical trials, the drug will continue to look good," said Robert Schooley, professor of medicine at the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at University of California, San Diego. Enditem

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