Covid-19 patients who fit select criteria will be prescribed the ebola drug remdesivir, the first treatment to be approved specifically for coronavirus, according to the government.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that early data on the drug, which is undergoing trials around the world, including in the UK, suggested it could shorten recovery times by four days.
The department said that, for the time being and due to limited supplies, treatment would be prioritised for patients who have the greatest likelihood of deriving the most benefit.
The drug will be used in adults and adolescents admitted with severe Covid-19 infection who meet “clinical criteria suggesting they have the greatest likelihood of benefitting”, said the DHSC.
However, it stopped short of explaining what this criteria was or how it might be measured.
The government announced the move earlier today with health Secretary Matt Hancock later calling remdesivir the “biggest step forward” in treating the illness since the Covid-19 crisis began.
In an earlier Chines study of adult patients admitted to hospital for severe Covid-19, remdesivir was found to not be associated with statistically significant clinical benefits.
However, the numerical reduction in time to clinical improvement in those treated earlier required confirmation in larger studies, said the study authors in The Lancet.
Although not statistically significant, within 10 days of symptom onset, those receiving remdesivir had a numerically faster time to improvement than those receiving placebo – 18 days versus 23 days.
Meanwhile, the anti-malarial treatments chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine do not provide benefit to Covid-19 patients, according to researchers from the US and Switzerland.
In fact, their study found the use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine was linked to increased rates of mortality and heart arrhythmias among hospital patients with Covid-19.
The findings, published on Friday also in The Lancet, prompted the World Health Organization on Monday to temporarily suspend trials of hydroxychloriquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19.
Hydroxychloroquine’s use against Covid-19 has already been championed by US president Donald Trump and the Brazilian government, as well as being permitted in France and India.
More to follow