Sarasota Memorial studies antiviral drug found to have positive effect on COVID-19 recovery time

Sarasota County

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – As part of a national clinical trial since mid-April, Sarasota Memorial Hospital is treating its sickest COVID-19 patients with the antiviral drug, remdesivir.

“We’re finally able to at least address this with a medication that has hope,” said Dr. Kirk Voelker, a critical care pulmonologist and medical director of Clinical Research at SMH.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the emergency use of the drug made by Gilead Sciences in the fight against coronavirus. That approval means doctors can start using the drug on patients with the most severe cases of the virus and not just those in clinical trials.

“What it is proven is that a drug can block this virus,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday about promising results from a study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The preliminary research found patients who received remdesivir recovered four days earlier than those given a placebo.

“The main question I get asked is, does it work?” Dr. Voelker said during a Zoom discussion on the clinical trial at SMH.

Voelker said the results are still not known. He explained his clinical team has given remdesivir to nine COVID-19 patients, while none are receiving a placebo like in the other study.

“In our trial, we’re giving it to every patient who qualifies,” Voelker said. “But they’re sick, they’re on mechanical ventilation. They’re in the intensive care unit.”

Sarasota Memorial Hospital has been on the front line of the crisis in the Tampa Bay area.

As of Saturday, the hospital said 33 patients who tested positive for coronavirus are hospitalized, 22 have passed away and 85 have been discharged since the outbreak began in March.

With no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, clinical trials trying to identify treatments are critical.

“They’ve been working night and day to be able to provide this drug to patients,” Voelker said, “so that people in the community of Sarasota can actually have potential treatment for this virus.”

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