WUHAN VIRUS/Government has requested experimental coronavirus drug: Health Ministry

Taipei (CNA) Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih chung (???) said Thursday that the Taiwan government has asked the American drugmaker Gilead Sciences to reserve doses of its experimental drug Remdesivir for potential use in Taiwan, amid reports that the antiviral medication may be effective in treating the novel coronavirus (2019 nCoV).

At a press conference, Chen confirmed the request to Gilead, while noting that the drug which is not yet licensed or approved anywhere globally needs government approval before it can be used.

Originally developed for use against the Ebola virus, Remdesivir has been widely discussed in recent days as a possible coronavirus treatment, following positive results from Chinese and American doctors who have administered the drug experimentally.

On Jan. 31, Gilead said in a statement that it was working with the Chinese authorities to conduct a clinical trial involving the use of Remdesivir on coronavirus patients.

In an interview with CNA Thursday, National Taiwan University (NTU) Executive Vice President Chang Shan chwen (???), who also serves as Taipei area director of the Centers for Disease Controls' Infectious Disease Control Medical Network, confirmed that NTU Hospital contacted Gilead before the Lunar New Year holiday in January, and said the drugmaker had agreed to send doses of Remdesivir to Taiwan in the form of a charitable donation.

According to Chang, NTU Hospital then prepared application documents pertaining to the drug's experimental use, including treatment plans and patient consent forms.

After gaining approval from the hospital's ethics review committee, the plans were submitted to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Chang said.

However, Chang did not reveal details of the agreement, such as how many doses of the drug would be sent, or when they would arrive.

In terms of Remdesivir's possible effectiveness, Chang said some physicians found the drug beneficial in treating a related coronavirus Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, or MERS during a 2015 outbreak in South Korea.

Despite its initial promise in stopping the reproduction of the MERS and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) viruses in the respiratory tract, clinical trials ultimately found it to be less effective than other medications, and it was not developed for use on the mass market, Chang said.

Regarding Remdesivir's possible use in Taiwan, Chang said none of the confirmed domestic cases needed the drug at present, given that all are in stable condition, and only one is suffering from pneumonia.

In the case of the patient with pneumonia, Chang explained that the person is being treated using supportive care, which involves the mitigation of individual symptoms, such as using supplemental oxygen to reduce breathing difficulties.

Since doctors have yet to find any drugs that are highly effective in treating the coronavirus, Chang said none of the patients had been treated with other types of antiviral medications.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel