Book an appointment Feather-communication-phone

Stay up to date on COVID-19. Visit our coronavirus resource center.


Blog Respiratory Health

What is Remdesivir?

June 18, 2020 Read Time - 5 minutes

About Author

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

What is Remdesivir?

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug originally designed to treat hepatitis C and Ebola. Recently, it has taken over headlines as a possible medication to treat COVID-19.

So, what is remdesivir and how much can it help in our fight against the coronavirus pandemic?

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

Book an appointment PlushCare-App-Steps

Remdesivir, What We Know So Far

On May 1, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency approval for testing of remdesivir as a treatment to reduce the recovery time of patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19.

According to an early clinical trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, remdesivir improved the recovery time for those on the drug by 31% in comparison to placebo control groups.

Of the 1,000 plus patients who participated in the trial, those who received remdesivir recovered in an average of 11 days versus 15 days for those who did not receive the drug.

However, it is important to note that remdesivir did not significantly reduce fatality rates.

In this way, remdesivir has been a measured success. That said, “although the results were clearly positive from a statistically significant standpoint, they were modest,” said Anthony Fauci, the scientist who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Although it does not reduce fatality rates, its approval for those with severe symptoms can alleviate pain and allow patients to leave hospitals and care units sooner.

Getting people in and out of hospitals quicker would save lives by allowing workers and equipment to treat a greater numbers of patients. 

Read: Caring For Someone With COVID-19

How Does Remdesivir Work?

Remdesivir is manufactured by Gilead Sciences and belongs to a class of drugs called nucleotide analogues.

These drugs mimic adenosine, one of the four building blocks of RNA and DNA.

Remdesivir is capable of incorporating itself into the virus’ genome in place of adenosine which short circuits the virus’ replication process.

By limiting viral replication, inflammation is reduced and symptoms go away sooner.

For those on a ventilator, remdesivir has the potential to limit damage to the lungs and allow quicker exits from intensive care units. 

Remdesivir was found to kill every known coronavirus in lab testing more than 10 years ago, and since then has been demonstrated to kill coronaviruses in infected animals.

However, the drug failed a number of tests in humans against hepatitis and Ebola, casting it to the side for human use. 

However, with the emergence of COVID-19, remdesivir’s potential has been rediscovered.

Having already undergone animal and human testing, remdesivir is much further in the approval process for use in humans compared to other emerging treatments.

Remedesivir side effects include increased liver enzyme levels and mild nausea.

There has been extensive research into remdesivir in the past, explaining why the drug was so quickly given approval for further testing by the FDA.

The federal trial performed in May has demonstrated a modest effect on hospitalized patients with COVID-19, but opens a new door for development of treatments for the virus. 

Read: How to Stay Sane In Quarantine

Remdesivir Going Forward

Much like early viral treatments for the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the 80s, remdesivir is most likely the start of a long road towards new and effective treatments.

Remdesivir is not a miracle cure for the coronavirus, but a proof of concept that could pave the way for better drugs.

By demonstrating that it is possible to disrupt the virus’ replication process, remdesivir has opened the door for the development of drugs that can do the same task more reliably.

You may have heard that remdesivir has had mixed results in testing. The findings from the larger US study mentioned above were published the same day as a smaller study which found no statistical benefit from use of the drug.

However, the smaller study was conducted in Wuhan, China, and had to be stopped early due to insufficient participants.

Just over 200 people were used in the Chinese trials, a number not considered large enough to draw reliable conclusions and significantly smaller than the study conducted in the US.

Remdesivir has already been used to treat patients all around the world. In an open letter, Daniel O’Day, Gilead’s chairman, wrote that the company was working towards producing 1.5 million doses. The company estimates that this amount could be used in 140,000 treatment courses based on 10-day treatment durations.

Currently, the drug is undergoing trials to determine if shorter treatment cycles are possible so as to increase the number of people the drug would be available to. 

These initial steps towards finding a coronavirus treatment give us some much needed hope as the pandemic continues to disrupt our daily lives. That said it is important we recognize there is a long way to go before a treatment will be widely available.

Read: COVID-19 Antibody Testing

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

Book an appointment PlushCare-App-Steps

Talk to a Doctor About COVID-19

If you’re looking for more information on COVID-19 treatments the doctors here at PlushCare are a reliable source.

Our doctors can answer your questions, give preventative and medical advice regarding COVID-19 and can even treat medical concerns you may have, including writing and refilling prescription medication.

Book an online appointment with a board certified doctor today.

Read More About Coronavirus

Sources What is Remdesivir? Accessed on May 12, 2020. Coronavirus: what is remdesivir and how effective is it against Covid-19? Accessed on May 12, 2020. How Remdesivir, New Hope for Covid-19 Patients, Was Resurrected. Accessed on May 12, 2020. Remdesivir. Accessed on May 12, 2020.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

More to learn.

What Is Coronavirus?

What Is Coronavirus?

What Is Coronavirus China is racing to contain a new deadly strain of virus called the coronavirus. Here’s what we…

Leah McCabe 3 minutes
Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus Update After much warning this was coming the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11th,…

Leah McCabe 5 minutes
Coronavirus Tips

Coronavirus Tips

Coronavirus Tips As we enter the summer of 2020, the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and its…

Riley McCabe 4 minutes