Atrium Health will begin offering a new treatment option to patients critically ill with coronavirus disease (Covid-10).

The Charlotte-based healthcare company will be the first in the region to offer the drug Remdesivir, which was developed by Gilead Sciences as a potential treatment for the ebola virus.

During a video conference with reporters on Tuesday, Dr. Christopher Polk, principal investigator for Atrium’s clinical trial, said the drug has shown promise as an effective coronavirus treatment during a study conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (The efficacy Remdesivir was not tested against a control group that received a placebo, Polk said.)

Atrium will be part of a separate study that will track the outcomes of patients who receive the drug.

Why it matters: To date, Covid-19 has killed more than 257,000 people worldwide, and researchers have developed no vaccine or proven treatment. In the United States, where more than 72,000 have died, the virus has proven to be especially lethal in Black communities, where underlying health challenges are more common.

In that earlier study, Polk said, patients who were on ventilators and were given a 10-day, intravenous regime of Remdesivir recovered at a rate that gave researchers hope for the drug’s efficacy.

Polk said Atrium has received enough Remdesivir to treat 10 patients, which he said is a sufficient supply based on the number of Atrium’s local patients currently on ventilators. If needed, more of the drug might be made available, he said.

Atrium will begin offering the Remdesivir as early as today.

To qualify for the treatment, coronavirus patients must be on a ventilator, and treatments will be administered only at Carolinas Medical Center. (Patients at other Atrium hospitals would be moved there.) In addition, patients or their legal guardians must give written consent.

The bottom line: Despite the drug’s potential promise, Polk said the public should remain vigilant and continue to practice social distancing.

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Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.

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