EU health body recommends remdesivir to fight COVID-19

A drug originally developed to treat Ebola is now set to be used for treating COVID-19 patients in the EU, after receiving the green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Thursday. The experts advised remdesivir to be used for patients over the age of 12 who require oxygen supplements.

"Remdesivir is the first medicine against COVID-19 to be recommended for authorization in the EU," the EMA said in a statement.

They added the data on the US-made drug was "assessed in an exceptionally short timeframe."

The European Commission is still required to approve the drug, marketed as Veklury, but this is usually viewed as a formality. Regulators in the US and Japan have already signed off on its use.

Read more: WHO stops clinical test for malaria drug hydroxychloroquine

Recovery four days quicker

Studies have shown that patients with mild symptoms who used remdesivir recovered on average within 11 days compared to 15 days with a placebo. The drug can be introduced to the body via infusion, and it works by disrupting the reproduction cycle of the coronavirus inside the body's cells.

"We have proven that the medication makes the disease milder in serious cases and reduces the duration of the illness by about four days," infectious disease specialist Gerd Fätkenheuer told the DPA news agency.

In a separate breakthrough last week, the UK approved the steroid dexamethasone as treatment in the country, saying that it cuts mortality rates in the most serious COVID-19 cases. Several pharmaceutical companies around the world are also racing to develop a vaccine for the virus.

Read more: Coronavirus: Steroid dexamethasone can help save worst-hit patients

dj/jsi (AFP, dpa)