Houston doctor calls remdesivir the 'U-turn drug'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The U.S. reached a milestone in the fight against COVID-19 on Thursday after the approval of the first commercial drug to treat hospitalized patients.

Remdesivir is the first and only drug with full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

READ MORE: FDA approves Gilead's remdesivir to treat COVID-19

The antiviral has been given to hundreds of Houstonians since April through clinical trials and emergency use authorization.

"The earlier you give it, the better for the patients, so it's exciting that we can give it early now," said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, an infectious disease specialist with UTHealth.

He calls remdesivir the "U-turn drug."

"I see the patients very sick in the hospital, heading to the ICU, requiring more oxygen, getting worse and when they give remdesivir, and there's a response, they U-turn. They U-turn from the ICU and begin improving," Ostrosky said.

Remdesivir has been around for years and was most recently used to treat Ebola.

Dr. Linda Yancey with Memorial Hermann Hospital said the drug acts similarly to how Tamiflu fights against the flu.

"Remdesivir works in the same way," she said. "It will decrease the duration of the symptoms of the disease."

Decreasing the duration of symptoms, she said, helps release patients from the hospital faster, keeping beds open during dangerous spikes in community spread.

"From a hospital standpoint, it's also important to have beds available for other severely ill COVID patients, but also other patients having things like heart attacks," she explained.

Both doctors are clear to point out: this is not a life-saving drug and does not work well for patients in ICU.

Instead, they say it shows the best results on patients in the hospital before they become severely ill.

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