Doctor, clinician wearing surgical gloves, readying an intravenous infusion

Early treatment with the antiviral drug Veklury (remdesivir) reduces the risk of hospitalization or death in patients with COVID-19 by 87% when compared to placebo, according to a new study.

The results suggest that remdesivir could be used to treat nonhospitalized patients, the researchers concluded. 

The Food and Drug Administration authorized remdesivir in May 2020 for use in patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 illness, and it became the first FDA-approved COVID-19 drug in October of the same year. The new clinical trial included 562 non-hospitalized patients who were either aged 60 years or older, or had at least one other risk factor for progression to severe disease. 

Researchers examined the efficacy and safety of a three-day course of the drug when compared to placebo. Outcomes were examined at 28 days. In addition to the drug substantially cutting the risk of hospitalization or death, patients who received remdesivir reported faster alleviation of COVID-19 symptoms than those in the placebo group.

Overall, the study data show that remdesivir may be most protective when taken earlier in the course of COVID-19, they reported.

The findings come during a time when other COVID-19 treatments such as monoclonal antibodies and a preferred COVID-19 pill are in scarce supply

Trial data show that remdesivir, an antiviral drug, has similar efficacy as certain monoclonal antibodies therapies (mAbs), the researchers said. It also has key clinical advantages over those drugs, they noted. Like mAbs, remdesivir is administered intravenously, but it has shorter administration times, doesn’t require post-infusion monitoring and is easier to ship and store, the researchers noted.

Full findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.