• Corona

Remdesivir as a medication in the fight against coronavirus

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Remdesivir is an antiviral medication. Remdesivir is not a new drug, it was developed by the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences in 2016 as a treatment for Ebola and the Marburg virus. In laboratory trials it also showed promise at treating SARS-like viruses. And now remdesivir seems to work well on severely ill COVID-19 patients. The medicine has therefore been approved for use as a COVID-19 treatment in the United States and Europe.

How does remdesivir work?

To explain how remdesivir works, it helps to get a bit technical. In short, it comes down to this. Remdesivir mimics part of the genetic material of the coronavirus. The coronavirus then accidentally grabs this ‘fake’ building block, which prevents the virus from replicating its own genetic material. This in turn prevents it from multiplying in the body. The result? COVID-19-patients recover more quickly and can be discharged from hospital sooner.

When is remdesivir used?

The antiviral drug is currently only used for severely ill patients with COVID-19 who require supplemental oxygen and are hospitalised. After all, remdesivir is not a pill but has to be administered via injection into a vein. Another reason why remdesivir is only used in more critical patients is because the side effects have not yet been properly established.

What side effects does remdesivir have?

Remdesivir has only recently been approved as a COVID-19 treatment. Therefore, doctors do not yet have a clear idea of the side effects. As COVID-19 is a relatively new disease it's not clear which adverse reactions are caused by the disease itself and which are caused by the medication.

The side effects that are currently associated with remdesivir include:

  • Elevated liver enzymes.
  • Skin rash.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Allergic reactions.

Remdesivir is used in healthcare facilities where patients can be closely monitored. The list of side effects is not complete and may be adjusted when more people have been treated with this medicine and we have more insight into how COVID-19 affects patients.

Are there any other coronavirus treatments?

Remdesivir is the primary but not the only treatment for patients with COVID-19. During the first coronavirus wave, certain antimalarial medicines such as hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have been used. These medications are currently not recommended as first line for COVID-19 due to fluctuating results. However, patients do seem to respond well to the use of anticoagulants.

Dexamethasone, which is a type of corticosteroid medication with anti-inflammatory effects, is also prescribed for the treatment of COVID-19. According to Leon van den Toorn, lung specialist at Erasmus MC, almost all severely ill COVID-19 patients who receive supplemental oxygen are giving this medicine, usually in combination with remdesivir.

Dietary supplements in the battle against coronavirus

Dietary supplements like zinc, melatonin and Vitamin D are also named as a weapon for fighting off COVID-19. These supplements, which at first glance do not seem to have anything to do with COVID19, have long been established in their role of supporting a healthy immune system. And a strong immune system is the most important weapon we have in the battle against the coronavirus.

How long do we have to wait for a coronavirus vaccine?

Of course, a vaccine would be the answer for worldwide shortages of remdesivir. Unfortunately, developing and testing a vaccine for efficacy and safety is a long-term process. It usually takes as long as 5 to 10 years before new vaccines can be marketed. However, every effort is being made to accelerate the development of a coronavirus vaccine. In fact, there are a number of vaccines that are currently being put to the final test.

There are indications that a vaccine against COVID-19 may be ready by the end of 2020. So, there’s a huge amount of pressure on pharmaceutical companies right now. However, scientists are warning against rushing vaccine production. Approving a vaccine that isn’t properly tested could do more harm than good. It is not unlikely that it may take until 2021 for a vaccine to be released.

What can you do to prevent coronavirus infection?

As long as there isn’t a vaccine, precautionary measures will play an important role in controlling COVID-19. Therefore, you should practise social distancing, wash your hands regularly and wear a face mask if required.

You can also reduce your chances of infection naturally by keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep and exercise regularly (preferably outdoors). This will keep your immune system in optimal condition, making it more difficult for the virus to latch on.

What to do if you have coronavirus symptoms

If you notice symptoms that could indicate a COVID-19 infection, such as coughing, a sudden loss of smell or taste, nasal cold or fever, you should get tested immediately. There are home test kits available, or you can go to a special test location. Of course, you should self-isolate at home until the test results are known (or, in the case of infection, until you are completely cured).

If your symptoms get worse or persist and you develop a high fever or shortness of breath, or if you are in a higher risk category for COVID-19 complications (for instance because you have a heart disease or are overweight), seek medical attention immediately.

Self-treatment of COVID-19

Have you contracted the coronavirus? Fortunately, most people only experience mild symptoms from COVID-19. Mild symptoms refer to similar symptoms that you may experience with a cold or mild flu. You can treat these symptoms with painkillers, such as paracetamol, a nasal spray and/or throat and cough medicines (lozenges). If you want to limit your trips to the shop or pharmacy due to the current situation, these over-the-counter products can also be ordered safely online. Again, consult a doctor if your symptoms get worse or persist.

Take care of yourself.

About is a platform for connecting patients with doctors and pharmacies, enabling targeted treatment and care. believes in responsible self-management of treatable health conditions.

*This article is written to provide general information and aims to guide readers in their choice of treatment. does not in any way advise readers on coronavirus measures or compliance. The advice of the national authorities should be followed in all cases.

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