Anti-viral drug remdesivir cuts recovery times in coronavirus patients, according to the full results of a trial published last night, three weeks after the US's top infectious diseases expert said the study showed the medication has "clear-cut" benefits.
Complete results from the research, which was carried out by US government agency the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), were published by leading medical periodical the New England Journal of Medicine.
The United States authorised the emergency use of remdesivir in hospitals on 1 May, followed by Japan, while Europe is considering following suit.
The study found that remdesivir, injected intravenously daily for ten days, accelerated the recovery of hospitalised Covid-19 patients compared to a placebo in clinical tests on just over 1,000 patients across ten countries.
On April 29, NIAID director Dr Anthony Fauci, who has become the US government's trusted face on the coronavirus pandemic, said preliminary evidence indicated remdesivir had a "clear-cut, significant and positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery."
The National Institutes of Health, of which the NIAID is a part, said in a statement online that investigators found "remdesivir was most beneficial for hospitalised patients with severe disease who required supplemental oxygen."
But the authors of the trial wrote that the drug did not prevent all deaths.
"Given high mortality despite the use of remdesivir, it is clear that treatment with an anti-viral drug alone is not likely to be sufficient," they said.
About 7.1% of patients given remdesivir in the trial group died within 14 days - compared with 11.9% in the placebo group.
However, the result is just below the statistical reliability threshold, meaning it could be down to chance rather than the capability of the drug.
Around 80% of cases of Covid-19 will be a mild to moderate illness, close to 14% have severe disease and around 6% are critical.
Generally, you need to be 15 minutes or more in the vicinity of an infected person and within 2 metres of them, to be considered at-risk, or a close contact.