Conflicting studies on effectiveness of Trump’s favorite drug – remdesivir – in battling COVID? Let’s disentangle this controversy

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[One New England Journal of Medicine study tells] us that remdesivir works in the fight against COVID-19. A few days later, other stories, these based on  World Health Organization research, say it doesn’t. So which result holds the truth? Neither? Both?

It’s a trick question. The studies are looking at two different outcomes.

The results [of the NEJM study] showed that the patients who received remdesivir recovered within 10 to 11 days, while those who received the placebo were ill for about 15 days… However, despite the shortened length of time patients would be ill, the researchers acknowledged that the medication did not affect the death rate.

The WHO study, called the SOLIDARITY trial, was given a different goal. The researchers looked at mortality rates among patients with COVID-19 who were given remdesivir.

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[L]ooking at the 2,743 patients who received remdesivir, 11% of them died – about the same number as those who received nothing, at 11.2%.

So, what is the non-medical person to take away from this information? On face value, the studies aren’t that different – they both said that remdesivir didn’t make any difference in the number of deaths resulting from COVID-19. But, the first one said that it shortened the course of the illness.

Maybe the decision to use the drug depends on hospital resources and how quickly they can get patients discharged home.

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