Gilead has ample remdesivir supply for hospitalized Covid-19 patients

Gilead Sciences will have sufficient global supply of its coronavirus treatment remdesivir by the end of October, CEO Daniel O’Day told CNBC on Friday. 

The comments come shortly after the publication of peer-reviewed final data from Gilead’s large-scale trial of remdesivir. It showed the antiviral drug helped Covid-19 patients who are hospitalized recover five days faster on average. For severely ill patients who received remdesivir, recovery was expedited by seven days. 

“These results are meaningful. They’ll definitely help patients around the world who have the misfortune of entering into the hospital to get better, and I’m really pleased to say that we have ample supply,” O’Day said on “Squawk Box.”  

The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also found remdesivir contributed to significant reduction in death for patients who were in the early stages of receiving oxygen support. The study did not find, however, a statistically significant mortality reduction across the 1,060 patients in the trial.

“The earlier you treat, the better in the hospital and you can prevent people from ever even going onto those stages of the disease where the risk of dying is very high,” O’Day said. “This is a medicine that works by reducing the viral replication in the body, which is important earlier in the disease and earlier in your hospital stay, which is why it has its greatest effect there.”

Currently remdesivir is administered in a hospital setting via an IV. Gilead is working on formulating an inhaled version.

Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said later on “Squawk Box” that the study results “were strong.” He said, “They confirm what we knew, which is remdesivir is active in this disease. It’s not a home-run drug. It’s a weakly active antiviral but it has a treatment effect, so it is meaningful.” 

“I think combined with the antibody drugs, which should be coming onto the market soon based on the data that we’ve seen, this is a pretty effective treatment regime in advance of a vaccine,” added Gottlieb, who served in the Trump administration from  from May 2017 to April 2019.

Gilead received emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May to use remdesivir as a treatment for Covid-19 patients who were severely ill. In late August, the FDA expanded the emergency authorization to include all hospitalized coronavirus patients. Regulators in about 50 countries have so far approved remdesivir has a Covid-19 treatment. 

The drug was among the multiple treatments President Donald Trump received after he announced last Friday that he was diagnosed with Covid-19. In addition to remdesivir, Trump received an experimental antibody cocktail from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

Trump, in a White House video released Wednesday evening, called the Regeneron treatment a “cure.” He added, “I want everybody to be given the same treatment as your president, because I feel great.” However, there’s no way for the president or his doctors to know whether the Regeneron cocktail or any of the other treatments had any effect.

Regeneron has applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization for its antibody cocktail. Eli Lilly has also submitted an emergency use application with the FDA for its antibody drug.

Gottlieb told CNBC on Friday he believes those treatments will be approved for emergency use. Antibody treatments work differently than remdesivir. Instead of stopping the virus from replicating, antibody drugs attach to existing virus and attempt to neutralize it.

“These two mechanisms actually could be complementary and we will be studying those,” O’Day said. “We’re going to be a lot smarter. … In six months, 12 months, we’re going to be able to fine tune this kind of therapeutic paradigm and vaccine paradigm to the best benefit of patients.”

— Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina. Pfizer has a manufacturing agreement with Gilead for remdesivir. Gottlieb also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.” 

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