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Coronavirus patient in remdesivir drug trial says he left hospital “improving drastically”

The antiviral drug remdesivir is showing promise against the coronavirus. Preliminary results from a clinical trial from the National Institutes of Health found patients taking the experimental drug recovered an average of four days sooner than those on a placebo.

Dr. Anthony Fauci called the results “a very important proof of concept that a drug can block this virus,” and the Food and Drug Administration may now consider an emergency approval to broaden its use. But, there are also reasons to be cautious and the drug is not a cure.

One patient in the study spoke to CBS News senior medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula about his experience.

“It was a very quick onset,” Drew McDonald said about the virus. “It got real for me when I laid down Sunday night and couldn’t breathe.”

McDonald’s battle against COVID-19 had just landed him in the hospital when doctors asked the 29-year-old to join a clinical trial of remdesivir.

He was already getting intravenous medication for double pneumonia. “So I thought, you know, ‘Why not? Absolutely,'” he said.

“By the time I left the hospital, I was already improving drastically,” McDonald said.

McDonald was one of more than 1,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the nationwide trial. Those receiving remdesivir recovered 31% faster and were slightly less likely to die than those getting a placebo.

Remdesivir, which was originally developed to treat Ebola, targets one of the enzymes that helps coronavirus multiply.

“This may be just a first step,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, who supervised the trial at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. “The effort that went into developing not just therapy but also vaccines for SARS and Ebola has put us light years ahead of where we would be otherwise.”

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While McDonald may never know whether he received remdesivir or a placebo, for him, being a part of the research was important. 

“Because I want to help other people,” he said. 

Fauci said there is an ethical obligation to stop giving patients a placebo and begin treating them with remdesivir.

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