South Korea is likely to soon approve remdesivir as an emergency treatment for coronavirus patients in what could be the first treatment drug for COVID-19 here, health officials said Thursday.
The investigational antiviral drug by US pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences Inc., if officially approved here, will be administered in the treatment of critically ill novel coronavirus patients, according to them.
Earlier in the day, a group of infectious disease experts discussed remdesivir's effectiveness in treating virus patients and agreed to recommend the use of the drug for seriously ill virus patients.
About 5 percent of coronavirus patients in the country are classified as critically ill.
Their recommendation will be delivered to the Central Quarantine Control Headquarters and finally approved by the country's health authorities. Remdesivir will likely be brought in under special import authorization, they said.
Remdesivir was originally developed to combat the deadly viral haemorrhagic fever Ebola.
Clinical trials in the United States have shown it can shorten the recovery period of some patients from around 15 days to 11 days.
Tests have also shown that remdesivir can reduce the fatality rate of infected people to about 7 percent, down from 12 percent for patients who did not get the drug.
Early this month, the US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authority so the drug can be used for virus patients who need intensive care and ventilators.
Since its first virus outbreak on Jan. 20, South Korea has reported over 11,300 cases of COVID-19 so far, with its death toll standing at 269. The fatality rate came to 2.37 percent.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries came to 10,340.
On Thursday, the country identified 79 new virus cases, marking the largest daily increase in 53 days, as another cluster infections tied to a distribution center in a city just west of Seoul has snowballed. (Yonhap)