Gilead to Expand Coronavirus Drug Trials to Other Countries

The drug maker Gilead Sciences is expanding its clinical trials of the antiviral drug remdesivir as a possible coronavirus treatment into several countries outside China, the company announced on Wednesday.

Two new clinical trials of remdesivir are to begin in March, involving “approximately 1,000 patients at medical centers primarily across Asian countries, as well as other countries globally with high numbers of diagnosed cases,” Gilead said in a statement. It did not specify the countries where the trials will take place.

Remdesivir is already being tested in Wuhan, China, the center of the epidemic, and the United States National Institutes of Health announced on Tuesday that the drug would also be studied in some of the patients who contracted the illness overseas and were now being treated in Nebraska.

Results from the trials in Wuhan are expected in April, the company said.

The drug is still experimental, not yet approved to treat any disease. There are no approved treatments for illnesses caused by coronaviruses, including the new one, known as Covid-19. Studies of infected mice and monkeys have suggested that remdesivir can fight coronaviruses, and it appeared to cause few side effects when it was tested in patients with Ebola, although it did not work well against that virus.

The experimental drug also stirred interest after doctors administered it to the first coronavirus patient in the United States. The man was hospitalized in Washington State, and his symptoms seemed to improve. But the experience of one patient cannot be used to determine whether any drug works.

Several companies are also working to develop a vaccine for the virus, which has spread around the globe. The number of cases now exceeds 80,980, and deaths total nearly 3,000.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Answers to your most common questions:

    Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all non-essential travel to South Korea and China.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      The World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world is not ready for a major outbreak.