NATIONWIDE -- “This is not a miracle drug ... but it’s definitely better than anything we have.”

  • Experimental drug remdesivir shown to be effective in treating the very sick
  • Has shortened recovery period by roughly 4 days for some patients
  • Is not a cure or a vaccine

That’s how Dr. Babafemi Taiwo, chief of infectious diseases at Northwestern Medicine, described remdesivir to the Associated Press.

You might have heard remdesivir discussed on the news. The experimental drug, manufactured by Gilead Science, is described as a “broad-spectrum antiviral medication.”

The good news is a study indicates it is effective against coronavirus. The bad news is so far it’s only for specific patients and won’t prevent COVID-19.

The study included 1,063 hospitalized patients. The drug was shows to shorten recovery time by 31 percent. That works out to an average recovery period of 11 days versus 15 days for patients who didn’t receive remdesivir. Of those patients who took the drug, about 8 percent died. The rate was 11.6 percent for those who didn’t take the drug.

The National Institute of Health’s Dr. Anthony Fauci said remdesivir is being evaluated in seven major studies. Still, it’s important to note that no drugs have been approved for treating coronavirus.

That said, remdesivir could lessen the pandemic’s blow as we wait for a vaccine to be developed and widely distributed. That could take anywhere from a year to two years, or perhaps longer. 

So far there’s little know about the potential side effects of remdesivir, but Fauci said full results will be published in a medical journal soon.

Remdesivir is administered through an IV and works by blocking an enzyme the virus uses to replicate itself.

The drug has only been tested on patients sick enough to be hospitalized. Typically, they had pneumonia and required oxygen. Its effectiveness on patients who aren’t as sick isn’t yet known.

In a statement, the FDA said it is talking with Gilead “regarding making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible, as appropriate.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.