Image of Yanxun Xu, Ph.D.
Yanxun Xu, Ph.D.

Treatment with the antiviral drug remdesivir was linked to rapid clinical improvement in COVID-19 when compared to no remdesivir in a new study of mostly (81%) non-white hospital patients.

Remdesivir has been the subject of controversy due to mixed results in previous clinical trials, ever since being provisionally approved for use during the public health emergency. In the current study, investigators analyzed data from COVID-19 patients in a five-hospital health system in Baltimore and the Washington area, in the pandemic’s early months.

Among more than 2,400 patients, remdesivir recipients had a median five days to clinical improvement when compared to seven days among matched controls without remdesivir treatment, reported lead author Yanxun Xu, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues. Faster times to improvement also were seen in patients who required supplemental oxygen and those with severe disease, but the differences in outcomes were smaller.

There was no significant mortality benefit associated with remdesivir treatment, however. Nor were there significant benefits detected when using remedesivir in combination with corticosteroids, Xu and colleagues found.

“These results provide further evidence that remdesivir may be effective in reducing the duration of COVID-19 illness, that a five-day treatment course may be sufficient, and that patients with milder disease likely benefit most,” the author concluded.

The inclusion of patients from underrepresented minority groups “provides much-needed evidence suggesting the effectiveness of remdesivir administration in these groups,” they added. 

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.