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FDA Approves Gilead's Remdesivir For COVID-19 Treatment

FDA Officially Approves Gilead's Remdesivir as COVID-19 Treatment, but There's Still No "Cure"

As cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to rise across the country and the pandemic shows no signs of slowing anytime soon, many people have questions about how to keep themselves and their families safe — and what to expect if the virus hits close to home. Since the infection is viral, treatment so far has been focussed on alleviating the symptoms while the immune system works to fight off the virus (as opposed to bacterial infections, which can be treated with antibiotics).

However, on Oct. 22, the FDA approved Gilead Sciences' antiviral drug remdesivir as the first and only fully approved treatment for COVID-19. Don't expect to walk into a pharmacy and leave with the treatment, though; the intravenous drug can only be administered in hospitalized patients. Here's what else you need to know.

Is Remdesivir an FDA-Approved Treatment For COVID-19?

In May 2020, remdesivir was granted an emergency use authorization, which means doctors could administer the drug to hospitalized coronavirus patients even though it hadn't yet been formally approved by the FDA. However, on Oct. 22, Gilead announced that remdesivir had been officially approved by the FDA, making it the first official treatment for COVID-19. The antiviral, which is sold under the brand name Veklury, is approved for patients 12 and older and "should only be administered in a hospital or in a healthcare setting capable of providing acute care comparable to inpatient hospital care," the company said in a statement.

In the statement, Gilead explained that remdesivir is an antiviral drug that "works to stop replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19." It was one of the drugs used to treat Donald Trump after he tested positive for COVID-19 in Oct. 2020, according to CNBC. Gilead claims the drug is "widely available in hospitals across the country," and will expand manufacturing to increase supply.

Is There a Cure For Coronavirus?

Although remdesivir is a newly-approved treatment for coronavirus, there is still technically no "cure," just like there's no quick fix for the common cold. The treatment options available for severe coronavirus patients who are hospitalized (such as remdesivir) can be administered only by healthcare workers, or, as the CDC explained in April, supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilatory support can be given when needed. Coronavirus treatment in non-life-threatening cases is similar to that of other respiratory and flu-like illnesses: keep patients isolated to avoid further spread, treat symptoms like fever and cough, and so on.

The National Centre For Complementary and Integrative Health has another warning: beware of "alternative" treatments touted as cures for coronavirus. "Some of these purported remedies include herbal therapies and teas. There is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness caused by this virus. In fact, some of them may not be safe to consume," the experts warn. So, a cup of tea to soothe a cough? Perfectly fine. A supposed "miracle" tea that claims to cure coronavirus infections? Not a great idea.

How Do I Prevent Coronavirus?

So, if there's no real cure, what are we supposed to do? The CDC's guidelines are evolving as more knowledge about the virus develops, but right now, the focus is on prevention and keeping the virus from spreading. Since there is currently no available vaccine against the virus — although experimental vaccine trials are currently in the works from companies like Johnson & Johnson and Modernaavoiding exposure is the best way to avoid infection since the virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person and through respiratory droplets from people who are sick when they cough, laugh, or sneeze. The following is a list of recommendations from the CDC to prevent coronavirus:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

The CDC also recommends monitoring your health daily and being on alert for symptoms of COVID-19, such as cough, fever, shortness of breath, or sudden unexplained loss of taste and smell, among others, and to take your temperature if you notice symptoms developing.

What Do I Do If I Get Sick?

If you think might have coronavirus, whether you start developing symptoms or you have been exposed, you should talk to your healthcare provider about getting a test for COVID-19. If you're already sick, the CDC similarly recommends a set of guidelines to try to prevent the spread of the virus. Among the recommendations: stay home except for visiting the doctor or hospital, call ahead when getting medical care to let your provider know you may have coronavirus so they can prepare accordingly, wear a face mask at the doctor's office and when you're in close proximity to other people, separate yourself as much as possible from other people or pets in your home, keep your hands and other surfaces in your home disinfected, and cover your coughs and sneezes.

The guidelines for treating and preventing coronavirus are shifting as officials and scientists learn more about the virus and its behaviour. Be careful not to fall prey to misinformation and false reports. Your best bet is to get your information from reliable news outlets and government agencies like the CDC; you may even check a couple of different sources to make sure you're getting legitimate and updated information to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.

Additional reporting by Christina Stiehl

Image Source: Getty / skaman306
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