What is it? The antiviral treatment remdesivir, sold under the brand name Veklury, was the first COVID-19 therapy to get full FDA approval, and, so far, it’s still the only one.
Although originally used in COVID-19 patients only after they were hospitalized, new data suggests it can be helpful in outpatients who become infected and who are at high risk for severe disease.
It is meant for people who have a current COVID-19 infection.
When it was authorized: Full approval was granted in October 2020. (It was first authorized in May 2020 for critically ill patients who were being treated with oxygen for COVID-19.)
The authorization was later expanded to include other groups, and it was authorized to treat non-hospitalized patients in January 2022.
Who can get it: Fully approved for children and adults who are at high risk for severe disease.
Infants and children must be at least 28 days old, weigh over 6.5 pounds or more, and be either hospitalized or at high risk for severe illness.
How you take it: Via injection or IV and administered only in a health care setting by a health care professional.
For outpatients, the treatment is a three-day course of infusions that must be initiated within seven days of symptom onset.
Side effects: Nausea is the most common side effect. Hypersensitivity, including infusion-related and anaphylactic reactions, has been observed following treatment.
There is insufficient data on the safety of using remdesivir in pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding; patients should speak with their health care provider.
How it works: Administered intravenously to patients who are in the hospital or in an ambulatory setting, the drug inserts itself into new viral genes to block replication of the virus, shortening the time it takes seriously ill patients to recover.
A number of experts believe that the drug may work best early in the course of an infection.
How well it works: 87% reduction in risk of hospitalization in non-hospitalized patients given a three-day course, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in December 2021.
What else you should know: For hospitalized patients, research in early 2020 showed that the therapy reduced length of stay (the number of days in the hospital) from 15 days to 12.
However, questions have been raised about remdesivir’s trial results for hospitalized patients.
In late 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended against remdesivir after releasing data that showed disappointing results. Still, many U.S. hospitals continue to provide this medication.
This is one of two NIH-preferred therapies (after Paxlovid) for COVID-19.
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