Gilead Surges After Medical Website Reports Coronavirus Treatment Showing Promise in University of Chicago Study

STAT's Adam Feuerstein reports that remdesivir, Gilead's nascent coronavirus treatment, is inducing rapid recoveries in severely affected patients.

Gilead Sciences  (GILD) - Get Report shares surged higher Friday after a specialist medical website said the drugmaker's coronavirus treatment is inducing rapid recoveries from patients suffering severe symptoms of the deadly disease.

STAT, a medical news website, said Gilead's nascent coronavirus treatment, remdesivir, has triggered speedy recoveries in patients participating in a University of Chicago hospital study, with nearly all of discharged within a weak of treatment. Gilead said it hopes data from the Phase 3 study will be available by the end of the month, but cautioned that there isn't enough data to determine neither the safety nor the efficacy of the treatment. 

Gilead shares were marked 10.7% higher in early trading Friday to change hands at $84.88 each, a move that would extend the stock's two-month gain to around 26%.

The University of Chicago study involved 125 patients, STAT reported, around 113 of whom suffered severe symptoms of the disease. The report also quoted a 57-year-old factory worker who was admitted to the hospital on April 3 with shortness of breath and a fever of 104 degrees who agreed to participate in the study. 

The man said his fever dropped almost immediately after the first treatment with remdesivir and that he recovered enough to leave the hospital by April 7.

Earlier this month, Gilead said it will provide around 1.5 million doses of remdesivir, which could be used to help some 140,000 patients, at no charge to hospitals and clinics and will ramp up production to be able to treat 500,000 patients by October. 

It also hopes to have enough supply to treat a further 500,000 patients by the end of the year.

"Remdesivir is still an investigational medicine and has not been approved by regulatory authorities anywhere in the world," saidCEO Daniel O'Day added. "The safety and efficacy are not yet known so while we feel the greatest sense of urgency in our work with remdesivir, we must take the responsible, ethical approach of determining whether it is indeed a safe, effective treatment." 

Last month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration gave remdesivir special 'organ drug' status that could allow it to come to market faster than through a typical approval process.

The treatment, which was first designed to combat the Ebola virus, had been used on so-called compassionate grounds in Europe and the United States until the company had to limit access late last week due to an "exponential increase" in requests.

Gilead has said that around 1,000 patients suffering from both moderate and severe coronavirus symptoms were given varying doses of remdesivir as part of a Phase 3 study after the World Health Organization said the drug may be the "only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy" in treating the rapidly-spreading disease.

Gilead said it expects results from those trials as early as this month, and has vowed to increase supplies "as early as possible" in the near term.