Gilead has announced that it will soon start trials for an inhalable form of Remdesivir, the first drug to receive Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA to treat COVID-19.
Currently, Remdesivir is administered to patients intravenously. This means that it can only be used in clinical settings under medical supervision.
The new, inhalable version of the treatment could change this. To be administered via nebulizer, a device commonly used to treat asthma, Gilead hopes that the more convenient treatment will be used by patients at multiple stages of infection as opposed to just severe stages demanding hospitalization.
“Pretty much every outpatient urgent care clinic has them. You could potentially treat somebody on the spot who has a positive test” for the coronavirus “but may or may not have symptoms.” says Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University.
Starting this week, healthy volunteers will be screened for Phase I trials of the inhalable treatment to check its safety. If all goes to plan, patients infected with COVID-19 may then be able to begin trials with the treatment from August.
As antivirals are thought to be most effective during the early stages of infection, Gilead hopes that the convenience of administering the drug via nebulizer may mean it can curb the virus earlier on.
“If you could get rid of the virus before they develop those disease symptoms, you would probably have better clinical outcomes across many patients,” says Dr. Rasmussen.
Although nebulizers generally pose few problems to patients, they have been known to irritate some people’s airways. Moreover, previous experiments for nebulizer treatments for gene therapy and insulin have both failed. There is thus no guarantee that inhalable Remdesivir will work.
Regardless of whether it works, Gilead plans on producing two million courses of Remdesivir by the end of the year. The company has also stated that it hopes to combine the antiviral with other drugs to enhance its effects.