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US approves experimental drug used by Trump to treat COVID-19 patients

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug originally developed to treat Ebola, has been approved for use on COVID-19 patients in the US.

The treatment, which is given through an IV in hospital, was signed off by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It is thought to prevent SARS CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) from multiplying in the body, with some patients recovering faster after using it.

President Donald Trump is the most high-profile coronavirus patient known to have been treated with remdesivir – he received it while recovering from his infection at Walter Reed Military Hospital in Maryland.

Donald Trump walks to the Marine One helicopter to be flown from the White House to the Walter Reed Medical Center
Image: Donald Trump received remdesivir while being treated at the Walter Reed Medical Center

It had been authorised for use in the US on an emergency basis since spring, after which it bought up almost the entire world’s supply, but has now become the first drug to win full approval in the country for treating COVID-19.

This is despite a global study by the World Health Organisation finding last week that remdesivir did not help patients survive or recover faster.

However, a study by the US National Institutes of Health found the drug cut the time to recovery by five days – from 15 days to 10 on average.

More from Covid-19

California-based developer Gilead Sciences, which is calling the drug Veklury, said it is approved for people at least 12 years old and weighing at least 40 kilograms (88lb) who need hospital admission for their coronavirus infection.

Gilead began research on remdesivir in 2009 as part of studies into hepatitis C and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common and highly contagious respiratory virus that most children get before they turn two.

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‘Catching coronavirus was blessing from God’

In May, the drug was approved for use in the UK, clearing it to be prescribed for some adults and teenagers.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the development as the “biggest step forward in the treatment of coronavirus since the crisis began”.

The EU has also authorised its use for COVID-19 treatment only.

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