Remdesivir is a nucleotide analogue, in the same drug class as the HIV and hepatitis B medication Viread (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) and the hepatitis C direct-acting antiviral Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), both also manufactured by Gilead. These drugs interfere with the viral polymerase enzyme (which in the case of HIV is known as reverse transcriptase), acting as defective building blocks that prevent a virus from copying its genetic material.
The results of a clinical trial of more than 1,000 people found that hospitalized COVID-19 patients with respiratory problems got better 31 percent faster than those who took a placebo, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
But Pitts warned that the drug has shown to a benefit for only the sickest of the sick — hospitalized patients who are elderly, have respiratory problems or preexisting health trouble.
“It’s saving lives but it’s not a game-changer,” he said. “Clinical trials have shown it has led to recovery in 4 to 10 percent of this desperately ill population.”
He added, “85 percent of people with the virus will ride it out at home with fluids in bed; it’s not for them. This is not a drug for everyone.”