In an open letter obtained by Fox News, Gilead CEO and Chairman Daniel O’Day said the inhaled version could allow the drug to be administered more easily outside of a hospital setting. It is not able to be given in pill form and is only administered intravenously.
“If the trials are successful, this could represent important progress,” O’Day wrote.
In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, rubber stoppers are placed onto filled vials of the investigational drug remdesivir at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. Given through an IV, the medication is designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material. (Gilead Sciences via AP)
“An inhaled formulation would be given through a nebulizer, which could potentially allow for easier administration outside the hospital, at earlier stages of disease,” O’Day added. “That could have significant implications in helping to stem the tide of the pandemic.”
The Massachusetts-based biotech company will start to look for volunteers for the Phase I trial this week, with the hope it can begin testing on COVID-19 patients in August.
It will also conduct trials using intravenous solutions in places such as infusion centers and nursing centers.
“Our best hope of beating COVID-19 is with a set of tools at our disposal: complementary therapeutics, effective vaccines and widespread testing,” O’Day added. “Having already seen that science can deliver answers, we can be hopeful of continued progress. Gilead will do all it can to help drive that progress by exploring the full potential of remdesivir.”
O’Day explained in Monday’s letter that Gilead expects “to have more than two million remdesivir treatment courses manufactured by the end of the year and many millions more by 2021.”
The biotech giant said recently it is working with “leading chemical and pharmaceutical companies” to make sure remdesivir is available in Europe, Asia and the developing world. It previously announced that it set up licensing agreements with nine generic drug manufacturers. It has previously donated its entire existing supply.
Earlier this month, a Phase III trial of remdesivir showed that 65 percent of moderately ill patients had improvement after 11 days.
A separate study from the National Institutes of Health published in late May also showed the median time to recovery was 11 days for patients treated with remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who received the placebo.
The antiviral was previously used to treat Ebola patients and has been garnering massive attention as the world scrambles to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Experts, however, warn that people should not take drugs unless prescribed by a doctor.
Currently, there is no known scientific cure for the disease known as COVID-19, however, a number of drugs are being tested to see if they can treat it.
Shares of Gilead were lower in early Monday trading, down 2.6 percent to $75.47.
As of Monday morning, more than 8.9 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, more than 2.2 million of which are in the U.S., the most impacted country on the planet.