Coronavirus: How Effective Is The Antiviral Drug Remdesivir Against COVID-19? Find Out What Experts Have To Say
The recent surge in the coronavirus cases has become a source of major concern. Hospitals and medical facilities have started to run out of resources and are struggling to even provide beds to severe COVID-19 patients. During such times, there has been a massive demand for the most sought after antiviral drug, Remdesivir. While the drug is said to treat and relieve patients suffering with severe COVID symptoms, Indian authorities claim that Remdesivir is not a life-saving drug and it's unnecessary use is unethical.
It has been over a year since the novel coronavirus first hit us, but given the recent spike in the COVID-19 cases in India, we're again back to square one. While vaccines have been our only hope in this distressful situation, the second wave of coronavirus, driven by factors like the double mutant variant and negligence, has really taken a toll on the country's healthcare system.
According to Dr. Balram Bhargava, director-general of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in the second wave of COVID-19, while the older population continue to be more vulnerable, there has been growing increase in the number of younger people testing positive for the virus.
In addition to that, the unavailability of vaccines to the younger generation may also be one of the leading factors as to why younger and healthy people are landing up in hospitals.
During such a crisis, oxygen ventilators, COVID-19 plasma and antiviral drugs like Remdesivir are in high demand.
Remdesivir is a patented antiviral drug manufactured by Gilead (US), initially developed for the treatment of viral hepatitis, and a cold-like virus called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Due to it's initial response against the virus, US FDA approved this drug to treat COVID-19.
In India, the Ministry of Health also recommended it as an investigational therapy in their COVID-19 management protocol document, however, clarified that it is not a "life-saving drug".
Considering India is battling not just a deadly virus, but also a crumbling health infrastructure, people are ready to try any means of survival during this critical time. As the country experiences a high spike in the number of cases, Dr. Randeep Guleria, the director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi said on Monday, "Remdesivir isn't magic bullet and isn't a drug that decreases mortality."
"We may use Remdesivir as we don't have an anti-viral drug. Remdesivir was proven useful for those in hospitals and on oxygen...it can't be taken like a regular antibiotic," he added.
He further emphasized that the anti-viral drug must only be given to people who are hospitalised, have a fall in oxygen saturation and have infiltrates on the chest X-ray or CT-scan.
That said, while social media is swamped with requests for Remdesivir, some reports suggest that the prices of Remdesivir have shot up in the black market and are being sold at unreasonable price to desperate patients.
There have been many debates and discussions about the effectiveness of Remdesivir on COVID-19 patients. While some studies have suggested that the drug has no effect against the deadly virus, others have claimed that it shortens recovery period in COVID patients.
As per a Solidarity clinical trial by the World Health Organization, that looked into the effectiveness of Remdesivir against COVID-19, it was found that Remdesivir performs no better than control for in-hospitalization mortality, but could not prevent COVID-19 related deaths.