• The Financial District


A drug to treat patients who contracted the novel coronavirus was approved by the FDA. The drug, the antiviral remdesivir, was part of clinical trials in Sacramento and used by doctors in the capital city, KCRA 3 News reported.

Remdesivir is the first drug in the U.S. to be approved for treating patients with COVID-19.

"It's just like an antibiotic except it's for a virus instead of a bacteria," said Dr. Stuart Cohen, the chief of infectious diseases at UC Davis Medical Center.

"It really has been shown to decrease symptoms and severity of illness and decrease hospitalization length of stay," said Dr. Vanessa Walker of Pulmonary Medicine Associates.

Cohen has been conducting clinical trials on the drug, while Walker has been using remdesivir on her COVID-19 patients in the hospital.

"We were one of the first 50 some people to use this drug in the United States and that's what sort of triggered further studies," Cohen said.

Cohen said their randomized placebo control trial is what demonstrated the shortened duration of illness — and was the backbone of what the FDA used to approve the drug.

Cohen said remdesivir should not be used on people with liver issues, kidney problems or anyone with an allergic reaction to it.

Walker said, overall, her patients have been able to tolerate it.

Both doctors pointed out that FDA approval is a move in the right direction, but much more still needs to be done.

"Yes, it's a major step. Yes, patients benefit from this medication," Cohen said. "Yes, their outcomes are improved. They get better faster. They get out of the hospital faster."

"But it really hasn't shown a big change on mortality, which is how many people have died from coronavirus," Walker said.

Although it's not a cure, finding an effective treatment this quickly is a positive sign. The first effective treatment for HIV/AIDS took six years.

"It's the first step in the path toward better therapies, which we will need until everyone gets vaccinated and is able to be immune to the virus," Cohen said.

"What this means is that we have another tool in our toolbox for fighting coronavirus, but it is definitely not the game changer that people want it to be," Walker said. "This still means that we need to socially distance, wear our masks and wash our hands."

Remdesivir is developed by the bio-pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences based out of Foster City in San Mateo County.

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