Australia approves remdesivir as virus treatment

Australia approved the anti-viral drug remdesivir for treatment of COVID-19 Friday, July 10, following a similar decision from the European Commission.

It is the first drug approved by Australian authorities to treat the virus and promised to reduce hospitalization time for coronavirus patients, Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration(TGA) said in a statement.

"By reducing recovery times, patients will be able to leave hospital earlier, freeing beds for those in need," the TGA said.

The drug was given provisional approval for adults and adolescent patients and would be limited to those severely unwell from the virus, needing help to breathe and in hospital care, the authority noted.

"While this is a major milestone in Australia's struggle against the pandemic, it is important to emphasize that the product has not been shown to prevent coronavirus infection or relieve milder cases of infection."

The decision comes after the EU's executive arm cleared the drug – which was originally intended as a treatment for Ebola – for use while Washington bought up almost all supplies.

Recently the US said it had purchased 92% of all remdesivir from its producer, Gilead Sciences, until the end of September – about 500,000 treatments out of nearly 550,000.

Several other Asian nations have also approved the drug for treatment against COVID-19.

Australia's call to approve the drug was made on "preliminary clinical data" and aided by reports from the EU's European Medicines Agency and Singapore's Health Sciences Authority.