Ebola drug shows promise for coronavirus patients, doctors say

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Dozens of sites worldwide are looking into how effective the drug remdesivir is against COVID-19, including Yale New Haven Hospital.

While the antiviral drug showed little success against Ebola, it appears COVID patients are benefiting.

Promising information is coming from the University of Chicago about remdesivir that most COVID-19 patients with severe respiratory symptoms went home after less than one week of treatment.

“It’s an intravenous drug, so you have to give it through an IV, and it’s designed to interrupt a virus’ ability to replicate,” said Dr. Joseph Vinetz.

WATCH: What is remdesivir

Still, Vinetz, a leading infectious disease specialist with Yale School of Medicine, is joining other experts voicing caution about the early results.

He said that until more evidence is gathered from the ongoing clinical global study, no scientific conclusion can be drawn from it.

“It’s non-experimental because we are not comparing one group to another group,” he said. “Everybody gets the same treatment. Maybe this group of people would have done just as well without this drug. And so because we don’t have a control arm, we really can’t conclude anything.”

He admits, what they are learning about the antiviral medication in the war against coronavirus is hopeful.

“Quite frankly, as clinicians, we are desperate because we have people who get admitted to the hospital and there is nothing specific we can do for them.”

Battling the pandemic could take another encouraging turn.

Dr. Vinetz is awaiting accelerated FDA approval for an outpatient clinical trial he is spearheading — re-purposing an antiviral drug, already in use outside the United States.

“I don’t want to create false hope but on the chance that it really works, that’s the game-changer,” he said. “It’s a pill that you can treat people that are not in a hospital that can reduce illness. That can even be used as a prophylaxis to prevent people from getting infected.”

Dr. Vinetz said funding is also critical. If everything falls in place — it could be up and running in two to three weeks.

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