Remdesivir – an antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences – has been confirmed to aid in the recovery of those infected by the 2019 novel coronavirus. While the effect not as significant as what many expected, it is able to shorten the time needed for hospitalisation and care by a few days. Even though findings published by researchers backed by the National Institutes of Health did not recommend its use, studies conducted by the manufacturer show otherwise. As such, the U.S. government's supply is reportedly just enough until the end of June.

After the controversy surrounding the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients, healthcare experts warn against the dangers of treatments that have not been backed by clinical trials. The aforementioned medication was not cleared by regulators in the United States but was promoted by high-profile individuals such as U.S. president Donald Trump as well as French doctors. So far, remdesivir appears to be the only drug that has been proven to work for now.

In a statement issued by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official Dr. Robert Kadlec to CNN, it is estimated that the government's stockpile of remdesivir is just enough to last until June 29, 2020, only. "Right now, we're waiting to hear from Gilead what is their expected delivery availability of the drug as we go from June to July," He said. "We're kind of not in negotiations, but in discussions with Gilead as they project what the availability of their product will be."

The drug is originally used to treat Ebola and is administered intravenously to patients with COVID-19. While its effects are not as impressive as other drug candidates currently being tested, it is purportedly able to speed up recovery by four days. The current average hospital stay for those with mild symptoms is around 15 days.

coronavirus vaccine
Well over 100 labs around the world are scrambling to come up with a vaccine against the novel coronavirus Photo: AFP / Mladen ANTONOV

Gilead Sciences has apparently donated 940 vials of remdesivir to the government, which is roughly enough for 121,000 patients. It seems that officials are concerned that the biotech group will charge a premium price for the drug, once supplies run out. The House Committee on Ways and Means chair Lloyd Dogget said: "The price that Gilead can charge, as with any pharmaceutical in America, appears to be the sky's the limit -- whatever sick and dying people will pay."