Testing inhaled Remdesivir for COVID-19 patients

Dr Phillip Reece and Prof Alastair Stewart discuss the clinical trial of an inhaled version of the antiviral drug – and what it means for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Remdesivir, the first approved antiviral treatment for COVID-19 in Australia, has been used intravenously for adults in hospital who have severe symptoms, need oxygen or are on respirators.

With inhaled Remdesivir now in the testing pipeline,  does this mean an inhaled version of the drug could be used to treat COVID-19 earlier and reduce the likelihood of hospitalization?

Indeed there is an strong Interest in the use of Remdesivir in people who have less severe symptoms – and for use at home for those with mild symptoms. It could potentially be delivered directly to the lungs via an inhaler.

Prof Alastair Stewart and Dr Phillip Reece, both from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, featured in a Financial Review news article in July discussing the clinical trial of inhaled Remdesivir.

“It is testing it for milder disease and may possibly have preventative application,” says Dr Reece.

“A vaccine acts by enhancing the immune response, Remdesivir acts by inhibiting viral replication so it has the potential for use both as a treatment for patients already infected with COVID-19 and as a prophylactic,” he says.

Adding to this, Prof Stewart, says, “Inhaled formulations may be preferred for drugs that don’t reach effective lung concentrations or cause adverse effects elsewhere in the body when administered by injections or as tablets.”

Both experts agreed that inhaled Remdesivir currently stands out as the antiviral with the best chance of providing a treatment for COVID-19 in a wider spectrum of patients.

Originally published in the Financial Review, 21 July 2020.

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Prof Alastair Stewart is the Director of the ARC Centre for Personalised Therapeutics Technologies, and Head of Mechanopharmacology, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

Dr Phillip Reece is an Honorary Senior Fellow, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics.