Great Britain

Remdesivir: Ebola drug endorsed as a coronavirus treatment in Australia

The antiviral drug remdesivir has been recommended for the treatment of Covid-19 patients in Australia, by the national taskforce bringing together the country’s peak health groups.

The National Covid-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce said Australian doctors treating adults with moderate, severe or critical Covid-19 should consider using the drug to aid recovery times.

The antiviral drug is the first medication to be recommended as a considered treatment for patients treated in hospital after contracting coronavirus.

Originally developed for the treatment of Ebola, clinical trials have shown remdesivir may improve recovery time for people with moderate to critical Covid-19 symptoms.

The taskforce’s executive director, Associate Professor Julian Elliott, said while it was early days it was a significant step forward.

“This is the first information we have that a drug has a beneficial effect as a treatment for Covid-19,” he said.

“The preliminary data published so far from two clinical trials indicate that it can reduce the time for someone to recover from Covid-19. 

“However, we do not yet have definitive information that remdesivir will reduce the risk of dying from the disease.”

Elliott said the taskforce reviewed evidence to speed up the development of the recommendation in less than two weeks.

He said the taskforce would review more evidence as it was published and update guidelines so Australian clinicians could provide the best possible care.

Remdesivir is not licensed for use in Australia but the federal government has approved exemptions to some aspects of the Therapeutic Goods Act to allow the drug to be accessed in the context of clinical trials and for compassionate use. 

The taskforce also said it understood there was a sufficient supply of remdesivir in Australia to meet expected demand.

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