HealthDay News – An inhaled version of the antiviral drug remdesivir will soon be tested outside a hospital setting, Gilead Sciences announced Monday.

Remdesivir, which is made by Gilead, is now being used to treat COVID-19 patients worldwide. Currently, the drug has to be given intravenously through daily infusions in the hospital.

“An inhaled formulation would be given through a nebulizer, which could potentially allow for easier administration outside the hospital, at earlier stages of disease,” Gilead chairman and CEO Daniel O’Day said in a company news release. “That could have significant implications in helping to stem the tide of the pandemic,” he added. Screening will start this week for healthy volunteers to take part in phase 1 trials of inhaled remdesivir and the trials should start in August, the company said.

Other clinical trials of intravenous remdesivir have assessed its safety and efficacy in hospitalized patients. A US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) study revealed that the drug shortened recovery time by an average of 4 days, and a study of moderately ill patients (hospitalized but not requiring oxygen) showed that those who received five days of treatment with remdesivir had better outcomes than those who received standard care. The NIAID data also showed that remdesivir was most effective in patients who did not yet require mechanical ventilation, supporting further study of the drug in patients earlier in the disease, according to O’Day.

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The inhaled version is one way of assessing the use of remdesivir in the earlier stages of COVID-19. “We will also conduct trials using intravenous infusions in outpatient settings such as infusion centers and nursing homes. For patients who are at high risk of disease progression, it could be particularly beneficial to start treatment outside the hospital,” O’Day said. “Our hope is that earlier intervention could help patients avoid hospitalization altogether. Based on our knowledge of the disease so far, it seems that in the earlier stages of COVID-19, the virus itself is the primary driver of illness.”

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