Last week, a team of researchers from Oxford University reported a groundbreaking discovery. In national clinical trials conducted by the UK government, it was observed that a drug called dexamethasone lowered the risk of death from COVID-19 in patients with moderate to severe symptoms. The study is just waiting for peer review before the "life-saving" treatment can be approved by healthcare systems. Meanwhile, the US recently granted remdesivir emergency use approval. Now, Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of the medication, hopes to test an inhaled version.

The method used by doctors to give the drug is via intravenous therapy. Since there are currently no other ways to take remdesivir, it is difficult to treat people without hospitalisation. With most healthcare facilities already above normal capacity, the manufacturer wants to come up with other means to administer dosages safely. As such, one possibility being eyed is the use of a nebuliser. This will allow individuals to inhale it in mist form so it directly goes into the lungs.

This was indicated in an open letter from Gilead Sciences CEO and Chairman Daniel O'Day. "If the trials are successful, this could represent important progress," he stated. "An inhaled formulation would be given through a nebulizer, which could potentially allow for easier administration outside the hospital, at earlier stages of disease," O'Day added. "That could have significant implications in helping to stem the tide of the pandemic."

In fact, the biotech group based in Massachusetts is already looking for volunteers in order to begin the first phase of clinical trials. For now, its short-term goal is to make remdesivir accessible in more countries that have been worst-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The third phase of its original trials showed that the drug can shorten the recovery time of patients by 11 days. In contrast, those who were given the standard care recovered in 15 days or more on average.

Remdesivir inhalation treatment eyed by Gilead Sciences
Remdesivir, an antiviral made by Gilead Sciences, was shown in a major clinical trial to shorten the time to recovery in some coronavirus patients POOL / Ulrich Perrey

Despite the generally positive outcome from treatment with remdesivir, medical experts warn people never to take it without professional supervision. Gilead Sciences originally developed the medication to treat ebola patients. Nevertheless, unless a vaccine is discovered or the population develops herd immunity, SARS-CoV-2 will continue its rampage across the globe.