Gilead Sciences Inc. said it plans to start human trials of an inhaled version of its anti-Covid-19 drug remdesivir, a move that could significantly expand its use if successful.
Remdesivir has been the go-to drug for treating hospitalized Covid-19 patients since US regulators gave it an emergency use authorization in May, after a study showed it could speed recovery from the disease. A drawback is that it’s administered through daily infusions at a hospital over a course of five to ten days, significantly limiting use.
An inhaled version could allow Gilead to give the drug to a broader group of patients, including those with milder symptomatic cases who don’t need to be hospitalized. In a statement Monday, Gilead said the inhaled formulation would be given through a nebulizer, a device often used by asthma patients that turns liquid medicine into a fine mist.
This “could potentially allow for easier administration outside the hospital, at earlier stages of disease,” said Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day in the statement. “That could have significant implications in helping to stem the tide of the pandemic.”
In its statement, Gilead said it would start recruiting healthy volunteers for initial safety testing of the inhaled version this week, and hoped to begin trials in patients sick with Covid-19 in August.
In addition to studying the inhaled version of remdesivir, Gilead said it also planned to conduct human trials of the intravenous infusions of remdesivir in outpatient settings such as nursing homes and infusion centers.
Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug that works by slowing the virus’s ability to make copies of itself. In the statement, Gilead said it expected to produce 2 million remdesivir treatment courses by year’s end, up from its previous goal of making more than 1 million treatment courses.