Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) issued a statement Friday disputing reports that its antiviral drug remdesivir was found to be ineffective as a treatment for COVID-19 in a clinical trial conducted in China.

News of the alleged clinical trial failure started making the rounds this week after a summary of data from the study was accidentally posted on the World Health Organization website. The data was eventually taken down, but not before many pundits jumped to conclusions as to the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of remdesivir. But in response, Gilead Sciences Chief Medical Officer Merdad Parsey said that "the post included inappropriate characterizations of the study." 

The study in question was supposed to involve patients with mild manifestations of COVID-19. However, the trial ended early due to low enrollment.  Parsey said that the data from this trial is currently being peer-reviewed, and Gilead Sciences should provide an update on it soon. Also, according to Parsey, the data from the trial was actually encouraging: "[T]rends in the data suggest a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early."

Nurse holding test tube filled with blood for coronavirus testing.

Image Source: Getty Images.

Whatever investors make of all this, it is essential to note that remdesivir has shown some promise. STAT, a news website that focuses on the healthcare industry, recently reported that in a sample of 125 COVID-19 patients treated at University of Chicago Medicine with remdesivir (including 113 patients with severe cases of the disease), most of them recovered and were released from the hospital, while only two died.

However, that data was from only one section of a larger study, and has not yet been formally released. Until Gilead Sciences publishes full results from formal clinical trials, investors would be well-advised to take all such reports -- both positive and negative -- with a grain of salt. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.