Gilead Sciences is to trial an inhaled version of remdesivir, a drug which it says shows promise in the treatment of COVID-19.
The pharmaceutical company said in an open letter that it would screen healthy volunteers for Phase 1 trials this week, and aim to start them in August.
Chairman and chief executive Daniel O’Day said: “If the trials are successful, this could represent important progress.
“Remdesivir, our investigational antiviral medicine, is currently given to patients intravenously through daily infusions in the hospital.
“An inhaled formulation would be given through a nebuliser, which could potentially allow for easier administration outside the hospital, at earlier stages of disease.
“That could have significant implications in helping to stem the tide of the pandemic.”
In May, US regulators gave permission for remdesivir to be used on seriously ill COVID-19 patients in hospital after a government-sponsored study showed that it could shorten recovery time by 31% – about four days on average.
The antiviral drug was originally developed to tackle Ebola.
Trials will also look at how remdesivir could be used to treat earlier stages of COVID-19, with people receiving it in outpatient settings.
Mr O’Day said: “Our hope is that earlier intervention could help patients avoid hospitalisation altogether.”
Image: Gilead Sciences is trialling a promising treatment for COVID-19
Work is also under way to look at how the drug could be used in combination with other treatments.
Mr O’Day added: “Based on our knowledge of the disease so far, it seems that in the earlier stages of COVID-19, the virus itself is the primary driver of illness.
“In the later stages, the body’s inflammatory response may cause some of the most life-threatening aspects of the disease. It is important, therefore, to have tools that can work together to fight both aspects of the disease: an antiviral to target the virus itself and another therapy to tackle the inflammatory response.”
He added that news last week of the success of the steroid dexamethasone appeared to “support the study of complementary approaches for treating COVID-19”.
Image: Daniel O’Day is chairman and chief executive of Gilead Sciences
The company expects to have more than two million courses of remdesivir by the end of the year and aims for “many millions more” by 2021.
Mr O’Day said voluntary licensing agreements with nine generic manufacturers and would try to make sure remdesivir is accessible and affordable to world governments.
“All of us at Gilead feel the full weight of our responsibility with remdesivir and this will continue to guide all our future actions,” he added.
Source : Sky News