Coronavirus: What is remdesivir and why is Dr. Fauci excited about it?

What you need to know: Dr. Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci said results from a clinical trial of a drug for treating the COVID-19 virus has shown “quite good news.”

Fauci told reporters at the White House Wednesday that the data from a study of remdesivir showed patients who took the drug recovered quicker than those who did not.

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According to Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Health and a member of President Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force, remdesivir patients saw a 31 percent improvement in the outcome of their infection over patients who were given a placebo.

“Although a 31 percent improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is a very important proof of concept,” Fauci said. “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”Fauci said the drug will become “the standard of care” for COVID-19 patients.

According to the study, the median time of recovery for patients taking the drug was 11 days. For those in the placebo group, it was 15 days. The drug’s effectiveness suggests that it may help people who are very sick with the virus to survive it.

The mortality rate for those taking remdesivir was 8% compared to 11% for those in the placebo group, according to a statement from the National Institutes of Health released Wednesday.

COVID-19 has infected more than 3.1 million people across the globe and killed at least 217,569 as of Wednesday. There are no effective treatments and no vaccine yet against the virus which is believed to have begun in Wuhan, China.

The study of hospitalized adults who have contracted COVID-19 began in February. About 1,000 patients were enrolled in the study that was completed last week, according to Andre Kalil, the University of Nebraska Medical Center physician who is leading the study. The study looked at the recovery times for those hospitalized with the virus.

The development of remdesivir began in 2009 as a potential treatment for Ebola, but it proved ineffective against that devastating virus. It is not a cure for the virus nor a vaccine against it, health officials cautioned.

Gilead Sciences Inc., the company that developed remdesivir, received negative results about the drug from a study in China that showed the drug did not have a significant influence on the outcome of a patient with the COVID-19 VIRUS. However, the clinical trial in China was stopped because they could not get a significant number of patients to test as the trial began when the virus was on a downward trajectory there.

Fauci said he didn’t want to “poo-poo” another trial, but that the lack of subjects hurt the research on remdesivir.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: Dr. Anthony Fauci (2nd L), Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, discusses early results of testing the drug Remdesivir during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (2nd R) in the Oval Office of the White House April 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Fauci said the early testing results were "quite good news".
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: Dr. Anthony Fauci (2nd L), Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, discusses early results of testing the drug Remdesivir during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (2nd R) in the Oval Office of the White House April 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Fauci said the early testing results were "quite good news". (Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times/Pool/Getty Images/Getty Images)