COVID-19 Daily: Early Remdesivir Data Published, World Leader Recovers

Compassionate Use of Remdesivir

More than two thirds of severely ill COVID-19 patients improved after being given the experimental drug remdesivir (Gilead Sciences, Inc), according to an analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

However, numerous experts expressed concern about the interpretability of the findings. The 53 patients included in the analysis were given a 10-day course of the experimental drug for “compassionate use” consisting of 200 mg administered intravenously on day 1, followed by 100 mg daily for the remaining 9 days of treatment.

The findings, which showed significant improvements in 32 of the patients (68%), are “hopeful,” the paper said. But the authors also caution that the number of patients was small and there was no control group.

British Prime Minister Leaves Hospital

With much of the world celebrating the Easter holiday today, here is a bit of good news from the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on the mend after being hospitalized with COVID-19 last week.

Johnson was discharged earlier  from London’s St Thomas’ Hospital, Medscape News UK reports. A Downing Street spokesperson said that on the advice of his medical team the Prime Minister would not be back at work immediately. Johnson, who entered the hospital  for persistent symptoms of COVID-19 and spent 3 days in intensive care, will continue his recovery at his country residence, Chequers.

“It is hard to find the words to express my debt to the NHS for saving my life,” Johnson said

The Hydroxychloroquine Controversy Continues 

Elsevier weighed in on its controversial paper about the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. The publisher defended the peer review process for the article after concerns about including the top editor of the journal as one of the paper’s lead authors, Retraction Watch reports. 

Earlier this month, reported that  “Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19: results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial” did not meet the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy’s expected standard, especially relating to the lack of clear explanations of the inclusion criteria and the triage of patients to ensure patient safety.

A Shift in Thinking 

Asymptomatic or presymptomatic for COVID-19? Experts with the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) discussed the difference between the two terms and announced new guidelines on management of COVID-19. 

“Pre” is really the right terminology, Carlos del Rio, MD, professor of medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, said during a news briefing. It’s not that people are asymptomatic but that they develop symptoms later and start transmitting the virus 24 to 48 hours before they develop symptoms, he said. The briefing also included a discussion of racial disparities in COVID-19. For example, in Alabama, around 20% of the population is African American, yet this population accounts for about 40% of COVID-19 deaths.