Gilead shares, Dow futures surge on report Covid-19 patients respond to its experimental drug remdesivir

Shares of Gilead, which closed at US$76.54 in regular trading, were up 16 per cent at US$89.10 after hours.
Shares of Gilead, which closed at US$76.54 in regular trading, were up 16 per cent at US$89.10 after hours.PHOTO: AFP

BENGALURU/LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Gilead Sciences Inc's shares surged 16 per cent in after hours trading on Thursday (April 16) following a media report detailing encouraging partial data from trials of the US company's experimental drug remdesivir in severe Covid-19 patients.

A University of Chicago hospital participating in a study of the antiviral medication said it is seeing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with nearly all patients discharged from the hospital in less than a week, according to medical news website STAT.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures surged 854 points on the report, implying a Friday opening gain of about 841 points. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures also pointed to gains for the two indexes at the Friday open.

Shares of Gilead, which closed at US$76.54 in regular trading on Thursday, were up 16 per cent at US$89.10 after hours.

Gilead, in an emailed statement on Thursday, said "the totality of the data need to be analyzed in order to draw any conclusions from the trial."

The company expects results from its Phase 3 study in patients with severe Covid-19 infection at the end of this month, and additional data from other studies to become available in May.

The University of Chicago is one of 152 locations participating in Gilead's trial involving severe Covid-19 patients, which is "single arm" meaning it does not measure the drug against a matched group of patients treated with a placebo. A trial of patients with moderate Covid-19 symptoms has 169 study locations.

There are currently no approved treatments for Covid-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected over 2 million people worldwide.

STAT reported that University of Chicago Medicine recruited 113 people with severe Covid-19 into Gilead's trial. It said most of them have been discharged and two patients died.

The "anecdotal data ... looks promising on the surface and continues to support some potential for the drug to be active in certain Covid-19 patients," RBC Capital Markets analyst Brian Abrahams said in a research note. "Nonetheless, there are major limitations to contextualizing and interpreting this data."

Interest in Gilead's drug amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been high. The New England Journal of Medicine last week published an analysis indicating that over two-thirds of a small group of severely ill Covid-19 patients saw their condition improve after treatment with remdesivir.

 

The paper's author called the findings "hopeful," but cautioned it is difficult to interpret the results since they do not include comparison to a control group, as would be the case in a randomized clinical trial.

In addition, the patient numbers were small, the details being disclosed are limited, and the follow-up time was relatively short.

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in February began an 800-patient trial that randomly assigns patients to treatment with either remdesivir or with a placebo to enable a controlled comparison of outcomes. Those results are not expected until after Gilead's trial reads out.