Remdesivir, tested at Stanford Medicine, authorized for emergency use against COVID-19

Stanford Medicine researchers who participated in two separate clinical trials are encouraged by data indicating that remdesivir can treat COVID-19.

- By Tracie White

Neera Ahuja

Results from two eagerly awaited clinical trials of the experimental anti-viral drug remdesivir showed it is effective against COVID-19, indicating for the first time the potential for medicines to help in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“These two rigorously done trials provide really the first evidence of the efficacy of any therapeutic for this disease,” Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine, said April 29 during a university town hall meeting (SUNet ID required). “I think this is very encouraging in terms of the future.”

Stanford began recruiting participants for the two trials in early March, when patients sick with the virus began showing up at its hospitals. Both trials took place at dozens of sites. One trial was a randomized, placebo-controlled study by the National Institutes of Health; the other, which had no placebo arm, was by Gilead Sciences, a company based in Foster City, California, that makes the drug.

On May 1, two days after early data from the remdesivir trials was released, the Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of the drug for the treatment of COVID-19.

More than 60,000 people in the United States have been killed by the disease, according to data compiled by Stanford Medicine-compiled data.

“I’m very excited by the trial results,” said Neera Ahuja, MD, principal investigator of the NIH-sponsored trial at Stanford and chief of the division of hospital medicine. “Still, this is not a panacea. We don’t know if this is the best treatment. It’s an IV drug at this time and can’t be given outside the hospital. We still need to look for the most effective drug.”

Aruna Subramanian

In results reported April 29, Gilead announced that a five-day treatment course with remdesivir was potentially as effective as 10-days of treatment in its trial of severely ill patients. Later that same day, the NIH reported that early data from its remdesivir trial indicated the drug helps to accelerates the time to recovery in severely ill patients. Its trials showed recovery for these patients was reduced from 15 days to 11 days.

“Data shows it has a clear-cut positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” said Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a televised meeting at the White House the day the results were announced. “What this has proven is that a drug can block this virus.” The results from the NIH which included 1,063 patients from 68 sites (47 in the U.S. and 21 in countries in Europe and Asia) are still awaiting peer review, he said.

Aruna Subramanian, MD, principal investigator of the Gilead trial at Stanford, said the results from both trials were encouraging to her, both as a scientist and as a doctor who treats patients in the hospital with COVID-19.

“To at least have something that we can potentially use as a treatment for this virus is very assuring,” she said. “In the early course of the pandemic, we were all so scared and disheartened by patients going downhill and needing to be on a ventilator for so long. To see that even those people can potentially be turned around is very encouraging.”

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit

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