Sept. 22, 2021 – The anti-viral drug remdesivir was found to reduce some COVID-19 patients' risk of hospitalization by 87% in a phase III trial, the drug's manufacturer announced Wednesday in a press release.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial – the gold standard for scientific research -- evaluated the efficacy and safety of a 3-day course of remdesivir given through an IV in 562 non-hospitalized patients at high risk for severe COVID.

Remdesivir demonstrated an 87% reduction in risk for COVID-19-related hospitalization or death compared with the placebo group.

"These latest data show remdesivir's potential to help high-risk patients recover before they get sicker and stay out of the hospital altogether," cardiologist Robert L. Gottlieb, of Baylor University Medical Center in Houston, said in the press release. Gottleib was the lead investigator for the study.

Remdesivir is the only drug the FDA has approved for hospitalized COVID-19 patients at least 12 years old.

The patients in this study were considered high-risk for severe COVID-19 based on underlying conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, as well as advanced age, but had not recently been hospitalized for COVID-19.

A third of the participants were at least 60 years old. Participants in the study must have received a positive diagnosis within 4 days of starting treatment and experienced symptoms for 7 days or less.

Use of Remdesivir Controversial

Results from a study in 2020 published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed remdesivir was superior to placebo in shortening recovery time in adults hospitalized with COVID-19.

However, a large trial of more than 11,000 people in 30 countries, sponsored by the World Health Organization, did not show any benefit for the drug in reducing COVID-19 deaths.

The WHO has conditionally recommended against using remdesivir in hospitalized patients, regardless of disease severity, "as there is currently no evidence that remdesivir improves survival and other outcomes in these patients."