Coronavirus patients rush to join studies that opened in hospitals in the last few weeks.
The experimental drug is called Remdesivir, it is designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material.
When the drug was tested against SARS and MERS, diseases caused by similar coronaviruses, it helped prevent infection and eased the severity of symptoms when administered in the early course of the illness.
Now, Gilead Sciences, the California-based pharmaceutical company who made Remdesivir, administered the drug to 1,700 patients on a case-by-case basis.
Interests in the study have been so great, that the U.S. National Institutes of Health aims to expand the study, and Gilead has been ramping up on its own studies as well.
One of those offered to be part of the study is Dr. Jag Singh, a heart specialist for the Massachusetts General Hospital where he is now a patient after contracting COVID-19.
“It did not even cross my mind once to say ‘no,” Singh said.
Dr. Libby Hohmann, the doctor responsible for signing up Dr. Singh and nearly 30 others in the NIH study.
“I would enroll my family in a heartbeat,” Hohmann said when asked if the need arose.
Gilead Chief Executive Dan O’Day wrote in a recent letter, “Many people have reached out to Gilead to advocate for access to remdesivir on behalf of friends and loved ones. I can only imagine how it must feel to be in that situation. We are taking the ethical, responsible approach.”
The pharmaceutical company supplied Remdesivir for two studies in China, and is expected to send in the results by the end of the month.
They also launched studies in the U.S., Asia, Europe, and elsewhere in the world.
The study leader in Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Dr. Arun Sanyal said, “There’s so much anxiety about the disease that the patients are quite interested,” and so far, everyone offered a chance to sign up for the study agreed.