Leaked Study Finds No Benefit from Antiviral Remdesivir in Treating COVID-19

A contrast with last week's leaked results from a University of Chicago study


When preliminary results recently leaked from a University of Chicago study of the anti-viral remdesivir, the data suggested the drug was effective in treating COVID-19 patients. But as I warned at the time, it was "way too premature to pop champagne corks just yet."

Sure enough: The biomedical website STAT just spotted an abstract that had been accidentally posted on a World Health Organization website. The document, which has since been taken down, summarizes a Chinese study of the same drug—and this time, the news is not good.

In this randomized controlled trial, the researchers recruited 237 hospitalized COVID-19 patients; 158 were treated with remdesivir, and 79 received a placebo. (The study initially aimed to enroll 463 patients, but the researchers could not find enough recruits.) The abstract reports that "remdesivir use was not associated with a difference in time to clinical improvement and mortality at 28 days." In fact, while it's not a statistically significant difference, the mortality rate for patients treated with remdesivir was slightly higher than the rate in the placebo cohort—13.9 percent rather than 12.8 percent.

The abstract also says that "remdesivir was not associated with clinical or virological benefits, negativity." This last phrase may mean that the researchers could detect no significant difference between the two groups in the rate of clearance of the virus.

Andrew Hill, a senior visiting research fellow at Liverpool University, told STAT: "If there is no benefit to remdesivir in a study this size, this suggests that the overall benefit of remdesivir in this population with advanced infection is likely to be small in the larger Gilead trial."

Amy Flood, a spokesperson for the drug manufacturer Gilead, told STAT that the company believes "the post included inappropriate characterization of the study." Flood added, "Trends in the data suggest a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early in disease."

We'll learn more about whether that's true when the full study is published. In the meantime, keep the champagne in the fridge.

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  2. The biomedical website STAT just spotted an abstract that had been accidentally posted on a World Health Organization website.

    The ol’ “accidental posting” ploy, eh?

  3. I wish I was in on the “leak loop” so I could properly go short or long on Gilead stock.

  4. They just opened up antibody testing in Orange County, so I am looking at going to get tested tomorrow. I did a search through my work Slack account to determine that on 1/27 I was “Staying home today due to one of the weirdest flus I’ve ever had”.

  5. “Leaked” studies, poor studies. It’s almost as if none of it means anything at all!! You’d think by the year 2020 Science would know how to design and run trustworthy studies that we can all rely on. Hahaha hahaha.

    And in the year 2020 AD, Science sent his one and only son Corona to cleanse the corrupt Earth such that every human would proclaim that Science is Lord of all.

    1. Have you heard of the replication crisis in science? Especially for social sciences and medicine?

      1. Ioannidis should be a household name. (Maybe then, I could pronounce it correctly…)

      2. Yup. It’s pretty horrifying.

      3. Sciencedamnit!

  6. Chinese data…..Really Mr. Bailey? Give us a collective break, please!

    You’re the science guy, for Pete’s sake. You might try vetting minimally.

    1. Don’t trust China. China is asshole.

    2. Anyone who thinks data from China can always be trusted is wrong.

      Anyone who thinks data from China can never be trusted is also wrong.

      In the case, relying on biomedical data from China is not bad at all. In fact, if scientists didn’t regularly rely on Chinese studies, the pace of science would be greatly slowed. It’s idiotic to stick your head in the ground just because the study comes from China.

      It’s pretty clear the idiots who comment this every time Reason posts anything that relies on data from Chinese scientists don’t have much scientific experience at all.

      1. I have plenty of scientific experience and you’re talking bullshit. In the first place scientists never “rely” on a single study no matter the source. It’s just a data point. Secondly, scientists are smart enough to understand that there is no area of mutual trust that China will not exploit with disinformation.

        It’s not that China is incapable of great science, it’s that every result must be treated with suspicion. And it is, except by Reason writers evidently.

        1. I largely agree with what you said. Being scientific is regarding all conclusions with some suspicion. It’s just that in some areas we can be highly skeptical (studies which affect the public image of China, especially), and in others we have less of reason to be. What I find stupid though, is the “it’s from China, and I don’t like the results, therefore I ignore it” comments.

          The same people are touting a clearly flawed Stanford study. Incidentally, that study used Chinese tests, but I don’t see many people talking about that be it contradicts their preconceptions.

          1. Should say “because it contradicts”

      2. If a source can’t always be trusted, it can never be trusted,

        And add WHO to the mix … nope, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a hundred times, shame on me.

      3. Really Max? Maybe China’s behavior in the last three months (lying and obfuscating the nature of the Wuhan coronavirus) has something to do with my skepticism of any data China puts forth on KungFlu.

        Don’t be an ass.

    3. They don’t get the benefit of the doubt, that’s for damned sure.

      It’s one study. Let’s see some others, from other countries that aren’t testing a patient pool where 14 percent of them croak during the study.

      C’mon. People are dying in the streets over this shit right? That’s after all why everything’s shut down. We can’t find a better, larger patient pool to study this drug with, in this country? Where we still have 1,000s of new cases a day?

    4. Yeah. This was my first thought as well. Also, why was the study ‘since taken down’ from the W.H.O. website? This is so shady. But hey let’s write a ‘Science’ article for Reason about it.

  7. WHO and a Chinese study. Match made in hell.

  8. Seems like Reason staff finally discovered that Trump mentioned Remdesivir, along with hydroxychloroquine, as a potential treatment.

    1. Sadly true.

    2. The first mention of Trump that I see here is your comment. Don’t worry – if hydroxychloroquine or remdesivir prove helpful after proper trials are done, I’m sure Reason will write about it, and your boy Trump will get all the glory that he deserves.

      1. No question about it.

      2. Likewise if it turns out that shining ultraviolet light inside a patient’s lungs turns out to be a valid treatment for viral infection. Invented by Trump on the spur of the moment in the middle of a press conference.

  9. chicken soup and sleep, baby … oranges and sunlight

    1. Total agreement

  10. 14 percent mortality? Who were they testing? 85 year olds with COPD?

    What cohort has a 14 percent native mortality rate from this thing without remdesivir?

    How did it do when treating people immediately upon notice of infection?

    1. Those over the age of 70. The VA study posted yesterday by Ronnie had an advanced stage cohort averaging 70 years old. It is almost like these studies are flawed. People over 70 already die at a yearly 13% clip. Why are we so focused on them?

      1. Thought you had to be over 80 to get that kind of mortality from Covid; I’ll amend my advice to my elderly relatives. Though it’s hard to go beyond, “Keep your stupid asses at home already.”

      2. “Why are we so focused on them?”

        Because they make up the vast majority of the deaths? And this thing loses whatever spookiness it has left if we can make it so no one dies anymore from it. Talk about your pipe dreams though.

        1. The covid death percentage is equal to all other causes. The overlap is not additive, it is cumulative.

      3. Because we vote, you damn fool!

  11. Aside from the reliability of Chinese data, one factor could be that Chinese patients are genetically different from Caucasian or patients of other races, so the drug may not be effective in them, but could work in other populations

  12. Funny how all the science worshippers do not want Covid-19 to go away, or for there to be any cure. Nope, they want us all to continue to be miserable at home because it’s good for Gaia to destroy the world’s economy.

  13. So another study that focused solely on advanced infection. Why is your focus here Ronnie? You do realize that early preventative medicines do produce long term results right?

    1. Ronald Bailey is reporting on the studies as they are published (or leaked). He’s not designing or doing the studies.

      1. He’s quite selective in which studies he’s reporting, however.
        There are some with positive results you know.

  14. Notice the Chinese writing on the remdesivir bottle? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the stuff came from there.

    Who knows what’s in that bottle?

    1. Not everything about China is bad. Their rocks, for example.

      1. I didn’t say anything was bad. They just seem to be…economical with the truth. Bottom line is that you don’t really know what you’ve got.

        1. They just seem to be…economical with the truth.

          This was classic. I am going to shamelessly use this, but will give you attribution. 🙂

  15. Also… how about an article on the two studies that now claim the quick reliance on respirators may have exacerbated the death numbers. The cure may literally have causes more deaths. Are we ignoring this because the media spent 2 months attacking Trump for a lack of respirators? You still havent covered the fact that NYC maxed out at 6k respirators after getting 30k and most of media attacked Trump for lack of respirators (including Reason). Cant admit you were wrong?

    1. So what I’m very curious about is how well the death rate in the control group lined up with the actual predictions.

      Since the quinine study turned up no difference, despite the initial, uncontrolled, studies being highly positive, I’ve been curious if the issue is they’ve been over-estimating the fatality rates of this thing, and skewing the results. No-one seems to be addressing that publicly though…

      1. V: By “no-one” I assume that you are Not referring to me and my Reason colleague Jacob Sullum?

      2. V: Also this just out – an excellent analysis of the infection fatality rate implications of the New York City coronavirus testing data.

    2. No Jessie it isn’t wrong. As you know there is no exact science as to when to incubate.

      Multiple clinical factors need to be taken into account. Every decision is individual. It has been suggested based on experience by some intensivists that some of these patients can tolerate a lower SpO2 than expected and can be carefully monitored. The hypothesis is that they have a greater lung compliance, less restriction than similar lung conditions and better chance of recovery without intubation if possible.

      It is empirical evidence based on observation and well worth consideration.

      1. Intubate.

  16. Boy, the CCP is sure being helpful dispensing all this information about how the treatments people are trying for the disease they let spread across the planet won’t work.

    Thanks, People’s Republic, we’ll all just cower in our homes until we die.

  17. Ronnie, as a science guy, you must know people only leak stuff for political purposes, right?
    So why repeat rumors and Communist Chinese propaganda?

  18. Mighty bogus study.

    French Dr. Didier Raoult on VA Junk Report Disputing #Hydroxychloroquine Effectiveness on Fox

    1. Dr. Didier Raoult on #Hydroxychloroquine Effectiveness

    2. Sorry. Wrong Study. Wrong Ron article. This is for the hydroxychloroquine study.

  19. Dr. Didier Raoult on #Hydroxychloroquine Effectiveness

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  21. The answer is we don’t know yet. Info out of China is crap. Let the other study play out and we’ll get a real answer.

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  23. It would be nice if people stopped leaking scientific papers before they were ready to be published.

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