The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to authorize emergency use for an antiviral drug, remdesivir, in treating patients infected with COVID-19. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), results of a recent trial of the drug is showing promising signs that it is shortening recovery time in patients who have the virus by about a third. It’s not the full-on treatment that most scientists are hoping for, but it’s a step in the right direction. Dr. Fauci did say that the results still need to be peer reviewed.
Remdesivir was developed to fight Ebola, but the clinical trial in Africa didn’t show any promise. So, it was never approved for any treatment. This means that it’s not licensed or approved in the United States or anywhere in the world. According to Gilead Sciences (the maker of remdesivir), the medication “has not yet been demonstrated to be safe or effective for the treatment of COVID-19,” but that they were “aware of positive data emerging from” the NIAID study.
A different study published in the Lancet led by Chinese scientists showed that remdesivir wasn’t helpful for individuals with severe cases of the illness. However, the researchers did say that it might beneficial for those with less severe symptoms. The issue with this study is that there weren’t enough participants enrolled to collect a complete set of data.
This announcement about remdesivir comes as experts in the technology field say that in order to fight the virus, we should be looking at low-tech options. Governments, healthcare authorities and companies are tapping into the location-tracking technology on our phones to learn about where we go to help locate coronavirus hot spots or notify potentially infected people. Companies, like Google and Apple, are coordinating on technology for infection-tracking projects and are revising their initial plans with input from technical and healthcare experts, but tech experts worry that the public, companies and political leaders will focus on tools like this at the expense of more helpful, but difficult policy decisions.
According to the experts, there will be problems with technology because there will be the inevitable screw ups and some people will be excluded that shouldn’t be. In addition, there will be privacy downsides that need to be monitored carefully. Despite being a useful tool, technology shouldn’t replace human-powered strategies, experts say.