The first official treatment for COVID-19 has arrived in Canada.
Health Canada gave the go ahead to Canadian manufacturer Gilead Sciences Inc yesterday to treat patients with the antiviral drug remdesivir, which is already being used under emergency or conditional authorization to fight the deadly virus in other countries including Japan, Australia, Singapore, and the U.S.
The antiviral drug is in fact also already being given via IV to patients with COVID-19 under a Special Access Program in Canada, but the nation’s Public Health Agency will now arrange for the treatment to be available to any Canadian with severe symptoms such as pneumonia or those with difficulty breathing, so long as they’re an adult or adolescent over 12 years of age and they weigh at least 40 kg (88 lb).
Originally used in the battle against Ebola, remdesivir functions by inhibiting the virus itself, thereby shortening patient recovery time, rather than bolstering the immune system like some other potential COVID-19 treatments.
Health Canada approved an expedited six-week review of the drug proving its benefits are greater than its risks, and says it will closely monitor the treatment’s administration.
Gilead Sciences—whose slogan is not “Blessed be the fruit,” thank goodness—is obliged to keep Health Canada informed of any serious reactions to the drug and continue to report on pregnancy safety, clinical data, and foreign regulation pertaining to the treatment.
The treatment will be given only in healthcare facilities.