PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s a glimmer of hope in treating COVID-19 as the experimental drug remdesivir is showing promise against the coronavirus. It’s still being reviewed, but the FDA may consider emergency approval of the drug to broaden its use. Hospitals in our region are already using it in studies, but it’s not the only medication they’re evaluating.

“By the time I left the hospital, I was already improving drastically,” 29-year-old Drew McDonald said.

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McDonald was among 1,000 COVID-19 patients in the nationwide clinical trial of remdesivir. The drug is showing promise.

Preliminary results show patients who received the antiviral drug recovered 31% faster by four days compared to those getting a placebo. They also had a slightly higher survival rate.

“I think it’s very promising. Of course, in science and in medicine, more studies need to be done,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.

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

“That’s very optimistic, so I think the antiviral pathway with remdesivir is one important result, so far,” said Dr. Gerard Criner, director of the Temple Lung Center.

Dr. Criner says remdesivir is one of eight clinical trials underway at Temple, where 2,000 COVID-19 patients have been treated — the most of any hospital in the area.

“People are working for the clinical research programs around-the-clock,” he said.

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Temple has the first patients in the United States testing a lung anti-inflammation drug called gimsilumab.

“It activates cells in the body that can release chemicals that can cause further inflammation,” Dr. Criner explained.

Some of the other experimental treatments being tested at Temple include:

  • Nitric oxide, which improves lung function and blood flow
  • And a rheumatoid arthritis medication that boosts immune function

“When there’s a crisis like this, it motivates people to work together rapidly,” Dr. Criner said.

Experts think future treatments for COVID-19 will likely involve a combination of drugs that appear to be helpful, but the ultimate solution will be a vaccine, which they hope to see next year.

Stephanie Stahl