A DRUG used to treat Ebola has been given emergency approval for use on coronavirus patients.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted authorization for remdesivir to treat patients with Covid-19.
Early results from a study by the US National Institute of Health suggests the drug could improve the odds of survival for very ill coronavirus patients by as much as 30 per cent.
It could also speed up recovery time from 14 days to 11 days.
The drug is made by Gilead Sciences and the company’s chief executive Daniel O'Day met with the President in the Oval Office.
"We're humbled by this being an important first step for hospitalized patients,” he said.
“We want to make sure nothing gets in the way of these patients getting the medicine, so we made a decision to donate about 1.5 million vials.”
Vice President Mike Pence said the vials would start being distributed to hospitals on Monday.
The drug could also be ready to treat 140,000 coronavirus patients in the UK by the end of May and has been labelled "promising" by UK's Chief Scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
Interest in the remdesivir has been high as there are currently no approved treatments or preventive vaccines for the coronavirus.
Doctors are desperate for anything that might alter the course of the disease
Gilead said on Wednesday the drug had helped improve outcomes for patients with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus,
It provided data suggesting remdesivir worked better when given earlier in the course of infection.
Remdesivir has been authorised by the FDA using its emergency powers.
In normal circumstances "substantial evidence" in the form of more studies would be required to prove the drug's safety and effectiveness.
But as a result of the pandemic, the FDA only requires a drug maker to prove that the drug's potential benefits outweigh its risks.
It will still need full approval but the FDA can give this if Gilead Sciences or other researchers provide more evidence of remdesivir's safety and effectiveness.
The drug, which is given intravenously in hospital, has not been tested on people with the milder form of the virus.
Remdesivir is designed to disable the mechanism by which certain viruses, including the new coronavirus, make copies of themselves and potentially overwhelm their host’s immune system.
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