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Health Canada approves use of remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients

Antiviral medication has been shown to shorten COVID-19 recovery time by 31%.
By: Stewart Wiseman
July 29, 2020
Photo: Gilead Sciences - The Associated Press

Health Canada has authorized the use of remdesivir to treat severe cases of COVID-19. The antiviral drug is manufactured by Canadian drug company Gilead Sciences Canada and will be sold under the brand name Veklury. Remdesivir is a nucleotide analog which prevents the coronavirus from co-opting the body's cellular machinery to replicate itself. The drug was first used to successfully treat Ebola patients, and was observed in a recent U.S. National Institutes of Health study to reduce COVID-19 recovery time by 31%. Patients receive remdesivir intravenously and the drug can only be administered in healthcare facilities where patients can be sufficiently monitored. Remdesivir has previously been approved to treat COVID-19 patients in the United States, Europe, Australia, Singapore, and Japan.

Despite remdesivir's ability to help shorten COVID-19 recovery, Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada, stated that the drug will only be used to treat severe cases of COVID-19 as "the supply with this company is very low globally." Some patients in Canada have already received remdesivir as part of the Special Access Program. Until the drug becomes more readily available, remdesivir will be reserved to treat patients who have pneumonia and require extra oxygen to help them breathe. Dr. Matthias Götte, the professor and chair of the medical microbiology and immunology department at the University of Alberta, noted that remdesivir is "the only antiviral agent with with a clear-cut advantage shown in the large clinical trial," and described the Health Canada's authorization as "excellent news."

Source: CBC News

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