The latest headlines regarding the COVID-19 outbreak aren't good. As of March 11, there are more than 1,200 confirmed cases of the disease in the U.S., and more than 30 people have died from it. Worldwide, there are more than 110,000 confirmed cases and more than 4,200 deaths.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and things could get worse before they get better. Several drugmakers are currently trying to find a vaccine or a treatment for the rapidly spreading disease, and arguably the leader in this race is Gilead Sciences (GILD -2.65%)

Gilead Sciences' remdesivir -- a drug that was originally developed to treat Ebola but with little success -- is currently being investigated as a treatment for COVID-19. However, according to the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Redfield, remdesivir is already being given to COVID-19 patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows patients in the U.S. to use unapproved drugs in "life-threatening" situations when there are no other options, which explains why COVID-19 patients are permitted to take remdesivir. 

A woman in scrubs holding a test tube with blood for Coronavirus testing.

Image source: Getty Images.

Gilead Sciences is racing through the process

On Feb. 26, Gilead Sciences announced the initiation of two phase 3 studies to investigate the efficacy of remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19.  The pharma giant will give oral doses of remdesivir for five or 10 days to patients with both mild and severe manifestations of the disease. If the results from these studies are positive, Gilead Sciences should move on to the next step in the regulatory process and submit remdesivir for approval to health authorities.