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Can Remdesivir be used to treat COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

Medically reviewed by Melisa Puckey, BPharm Last updated on Apr 6, 2020.

Official Answer

  • Remdesivir (GS-5734) is being used in clinical trials for treating coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • A clinical study of remdesivir against SARS-CoV-2 showed remdesivir powerfully blocked the virus infection, at a low concentration and it showed high selectivity index. Remdesivir was shown to have broad spectrum anti coronavirus activity.  
  • There are currently many clinical trials testing how well remdesivir treatment works against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2,  and to evaluate its safety in treating COVID-19. Clinical trials are also being done on remdesivir with a combination of other medicines thought to work against coronavirus.

What is Remdesivir?

  • Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that blocks an enzyme that the virus uses to make copies of itself, so there is a decrease in the quantity of coronavirus in the body.
  • Remdesivir has been studied in treatment of the viruses that cause MERS, SARS, Ebola and now SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19

How does Remdesivir work on COVID-19?

  • For the SARS-CoV-2 virus to make you sick it has to first infect your cells
  • Secondly the virus needs to make a lot of copies of itself, so it can spread around your body to make you sick
  • For the virus to make copies of itself, it needs an enzyme called RdRp (RNA- dependent RNA polymerase) but the Remdesivir stops the RdRp from working properly, so the virus can’t make its copies.
  •  This stops the virus numbers from increasing and stops the infection getting worse.

Is Remdesivir an approved medicine by the FDA?

  • Remdesivir is not a FDA approved medicine
  • Remdesivir is currently at the clinical trial stage of development which is the primary way for patients to access remdesivir
  • Remdesivir is also now available under the “expanded access” program which means hospitals or physicians can apply for emergency use of remdesivir for multiple severely ill patients at a time. This is for patients where enrollment in a clinical trial is not possible. 

What happens next?

  • We are waiting for the remdesivir clinical trials to be completed to find out how well remdesivir works to decrease any breathing issues, lung issues and other complications that occur in COVID-19
  • The studies will also be looking for any side effects or any unexpected issues that may reduce remdesivir usefulness in COVID-19 patients
  • There are also many other clinical trials using remdesivir in combination with other medicines that are hoped to treat COVID-19.

Bottom line

  • Remdesivir is one medication that is currently being trialled to treat patients with complications from COVID-19.
  • Remdesivir stops the virus from making copies of itself by stopping the RdRp from doing its job properly. This stops the virus numbers from increasing and stops the infection getting worse
  • Remdesivir is not currently approved by FDA and is in the clinical trial stage of development and also available under the “expanded access” program

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