Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Early Look at Gilead Sciences' Experimental Coronavirus Treatment Disappoints

By Cory Renauer - Apr 11, 2020 at 5:34PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Compassionate use data makes it clear that remdesivir isn't a miracle cure for severely ill COVID-19 patients.

A leading medical journal recently published an analysis of coronavirus patients treated with remdesivir, an experimental antiviral from Gilead Sciences (GILD 0.00%). While the data doesn't tell us much that we didn't know already, it did pour cold water on any lofty expectations and highlight reasons drug developers generally avoid compassionate use programs.

Compassionate use 

The FDA allows drugmakers like Gilead Sciences to provide experimental treatments to patients with lethal conditions that lack treatment options. When patients can't access experimental treatments by participating in clinical trials, there's a compassionate use pathway that involves cooperation among patients, their physician, the FDA, a separate review board that advises the FDA, and finally the drugmaker.

Physician with clipboard in an intensive care unit.

Image source: Getty Images.

Gilead Sciences has provided remdesivir to thousands of coronavirus patients outside controlled clinical trial settings through an expanded version of the FDA's compassionate use program. In a recently published analysis of 53 patients who received at least one dose of remdesivir, 47% were discharged from the hospital. 

It's not over

It's hard to look at the reported 47% hospital discharge rate without feeling disappointed, but it's hardly time to throw in the towel on remdesivir. All we've learned from the study is that the experimental drug isn't super-effective when given to COVID-19 patients after they've landed in an intensive care unit. That said, there's also a strong chance that significantly fewer of these patients would have improved without remdesivir. 

We know that antiviral drugs that stop viruses from replicating are more useful when administered in earlier stages of infection. Two-thirds of patients in the analysis were so severely affected that they had already started relying on ventilators to breathe for them before beginning treatment with remdesivir. 

Later this month, Gilead Sciences will announce results from the first of several controlled clinical trials with remdesivir.

Cory Renauer owns shares of Gilead Sciences. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Gilead Sciences. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Gilead Sciences, Inc. Stock Quote
Gilead Sciences, Inc.
GILD
$61.09 (0.00%) $0.00

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
377%
 
S&P 500 Returns
123%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/08/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.