Remdesivir given Health Canada approval to treat severe COVID-19 symptoms

It isn't a cure, but it may be a start. Health Canada has given the green light to using a drug to treat certain COVID-19 patients.

Canada's national health body authorized the use of remdesivir, an antiviral medication used in the past to combat ebola and hepatitis C, for severe cases of COVID-19. The drug is manufactured by Canadian pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences and will be used with COVID-19 patients with pneumonia and difficulty breathing. Remdesivir is not a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, but can be used to treat some of the disease's more severe symptoms.

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Remdesivir, also known by its brand name Veklury, is only authorized in Canada for people ages 12 years old and up who weigh at least 40 kilograms. The drug is not authorized for children or pregnant women. The drug is given to a patient through an IV and will only be used in some health care facilities. 

"The Department completed an expedited six-week review of the available safety, efficacy and quality data to determine that the drug’s benefits outweigh its risks when used for the authorized indication," reads a statement issued July 28 by Health Canada. 

A small number of Canadians with COVID-19 have been treated with the drug through Health Canada's Special Access Program, a federal program that provides drugs that have not yet hit commercial markets or drugs not yet approved by Health Canada to people in dire need.

"Health Canada will continue to closely monitor the safety of remdesivir in Canada and will take prompt action should any safety concerns arise," reads the Health Canada statement.

Gilead will need to submit post-market safety monitoring reports and information on drug reactions, data on the drug's safety and efficacy, information from clinical trials and other quality data to Health Canada. Two clinical trials on remdesivir, both authorized by Health Canada, will continue on as planned.

Remdesivir has been granted at least partial authorization by health authorities in the U.S., Australia, Japan, Singapore and in some European countries.

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