BOSTON (CBS) – Two Massachusetts hospitals, Massachusetts General Hospital and UMass Memorial, helped put the experimental drug Remdesivir to the test against COVID-19.
They were part of an international independent study, and the results have those in the medical field optimistic.
“It has proven that a drug can block this virus,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases as he announced promising news in the fight against COVID-19.
The news comes from a federal study, one that UMass Memorial participated in as one of 47 hospitals in the U.S. and 21 sites around the world.
“It’s a hopeful sign. It means that we are on the right track,” said Dr. Robert Finberg, chair of Medicine at UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Medical Center.
Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug given to patients through an IV.
“This drug happens to be blocking an enzyme that the virus uses,” Fauci said. “There are a lot of other enzymes that the virus uses that are now going to be targets.”
Patients who received the drug recovered faster and had a lower death rate than those not who did not.
“Remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recover,” said Dr. Fauci.
The research was done in a double-blind study, meaning patients didn’t know if they received Remdesivir. The clinical trial was run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which has some of the most stringent rules for testing.
Doctors at other hospitals are testing the drug. The maker, Gilead, based in California, is conducting clinical trials at several Boston institutions such as Tufts and Beth Israel.
“It’s not the solution to the problem; it is a step forward,” said Dr. Finberg. While cautioning that the medication is not a so-called silver-bullet, he is optimistic about its potentials. “In the last two days, I have seen three patients who have been discharged from the hospital, and they are all doing very, very well,” he said.
Next, UMass Memorial will participate in a study that combines Remdesivir with another drug to see if the combination is even more effective.