Neither he nor the scores of other scientists interested in coronaviruses foresaw that a new one would unleash a plague that has killed nearly a quarter-million people worldwide. The F.D.A. rushed to approve remdesivir under emergency use provisions, after a federal trial demonstrated modest improvements in severely ill patients.
The trial, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, included more than 1, 04 hospitalized patients and found that those receiving remdesivir recovered faster than those who got a placebo: in (days, versus days. But the drug did not significantly reduce fatality rates.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the results were “a very important proof of concept” but not a “knockout.” President Trump hailed the drug on Friday as “an important treatment” and “really promising.”
Remdesivir is approved only for severely ill patients and only temporarily; formal approval must come later. Still, some doctors laboring in intensive care units embraced the drug as an important new weapon against a virus that is killing patients worldwide.
“It’s a great first step,” said Dr. Robert Finberg, chairman of the department of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Little about the early history of remdesivir, manufactured by Gilead Sciences, suggested the hopes now placed upon it.