A COVID-19 patient currently undergoing treatment at Sungai Buloh Hospital will be the first patient in Southeast Asia to be administered the antiviral drug Remdesivir. The patient is the first of a hundred to be recruited for clinical trials from hospitals nationwide under the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Remdesivir is developed by American biotechnology company Gilead Sciences Inc. According to the company, the drug has been tested on animals against viral pathogens that are structurally similar to COVID-19, like MERS and SARS, which are also triggered by coronaviruses.
Remdesivir works by blocking the coronavirus’s RNA polymerase—a key enzyme that this virus needs to replicate its genetic material in our bodies. However, the drug is still being tested against the SAR-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus in clinical trials launched in the United States.
“We have received the drug and distributed it to nine hospitals. We have also recruited one case for the clinical trial, and we aim at getting 100 patients,” said Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
While Remdesivir is still an experimental drug, Gilead Sciences said that it has improved COVID-19 patients’ outcomes, and said that their data suggests that Remdesivir works better when given earlier in the course of infection.
However, Dr Noor Hisham said it will probably take six months before the trial could be completed and the results would submitted to the WHO. They will then look into all the reports from clinical trials done around the world, including Malaysia, and study them according to their protocols.
There are currently (8th May) a total number of 6,535 COVID-19 cases in Malaysia, with a current death toll of 107 and a total of 4,864 recovered patients.