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US FDA approves first COVID-19 drug: the antiviral remdesivir

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Remdesivir cuts the time to recovery by five days on average in a large study led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Remdesivir cuts the time to recovery by five days on average in a large study led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. (AP photo)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug to treat COVID-19: remdesivir, an antiviral medicine given through an IV for patients needing hospitalization.

The drug, which California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. is calling Veklury, cut the time to recovery by five days — from 15 days to 10 on average — in a large study led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

It had been authorized for use on an emergency basis since spring, and now has become the first drug to win full U.S. approval for treating COVID-19.

Gilead says Veklury is approved for people at least 12 years old and weighing at least 88 pounds (40 kilograms) who need hospitalization for their coronavirus infection. It works by inhibiting a substance the virus uses to make copies of itself.