Health and Wellness

Chicago doctor says coronavirus patients treated with antiviral drug “have done really well”

scientist in lab
Photo: North Sullivan Photography, CSIRO (CC license 3.0)

A clinical trial at the University of Chicago that treated COVID-19 patients with an antiviral drug is showing promising results. Most patients are returning home within days of treatment.

The study included 125 patients who were given daily infusions of the drug. Most of the patients were severely ill before starting treatment, but all left the hospital within a week of being given the drug.

Related: Evangelical Christians are linking LGBTQ people to the coronavirus now

Doctors are optimistic that Gilead Sciences’ antiviral medicine Remdesivir may provide a clue about how to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Kathleen Mullane, the infectious disease specialist leading the hospital’s trials, was captured on video talking about the trial with colleagues.

“The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish,” she said. “We do see, when patients come in with high fevers, they do [reduce] quite quickly. We have seen people come off ventilators a day after starting therapy. So, in that realm, overall our patients have done very well.”

“Most of our patients are severe and most of them are leaving at six days, so that tells us the duration of therapy doesn’t have to be 10 days,” she said.

Still, the university cautions that it’s too early to jump to conclusions.

“Partial data from an ongoing clinical trial is by definition incomplete and should never be used to draw conclusions about the safety or efficacy of a potential treatment that is under investigation,” it said in a statement.

“In this case, information from an internal forum for research colleagues concerning work in progress was released without authorization. Drawing any conclusions at this point is premature and scientifically unsound.”

A Spanish newspaper reported last month that an HIV medication was used successfully to treat a patient.

In February, the World Health Organization had to issue a warning after reports out of China and Thailand that a cocktail of HIV meds and flu therapy were being used to successfully treat patients. The group warned that a run on the unproven drug and the subsequent reduction in inventory would be dangerous for people with HIV who depend on it.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Remdesivir as an HIV medication. We regret the error.

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