Is treatment with remdesivir more effective than placebo in patients with severe COVID-19?

Drug, Pill, Medicine, Health, Addiction, Medication

Bottom Line:

In adults who are severely sick with COVID-19, treatment with remdesivir has not been shown to improve clinical outcomes (defined as an improvement in the patient’s health after 28 days).


Wang, Y. et al. Remdesivir in adults with severe COVID-19: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre trial. The Lancet (2020).

Date Published:

29 April 2020


Remdesivir, an antiviral medication that was originally developed to treat Ebola, is currently being researched as a potential treatment for COVID-19. A previous study of 61 patients who received the drug showed some early evidence that taking the drug could lead to better clinical outcomes but the study failed to include a comparison group (such as a placebo). In this newer study conducted in China, researchers aimed to see whether patients with severe COVID-19 had better clinical outcomes when treated with remdesivir compared to patients who were treated with a placebo. Their results showed that treatment with remdesivir did not decrease patient mortality rate, time spent using a ventilator, or the patient’s viral load (i.e. the amount of virus in the body). However, their results do suggest that patients taking remdesivir might recover sooner if the drug is given earlier during a patient’s illness (although these results were not statistically significant). One of the weaknesses of this study is that it was under-powered, meaning that there were not enough people in the study to adequately determine the effectiveness of the drug. As a result, larger studies on the effect of remdesivir on treating COVID-19 will be needed before a definite answer on its effectiveness can be made.

Summary by: Louis Huynh