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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – While there is no cure for COVID-19 and a hoped-for vaccine is still at least months away, there is a new drug being used to treat severe COVID-19 cases that require hospitalization. Remdesivir is an anti-viral, experimental drug that is said to speed up the recovery of COVID-19 patients.

According to case studies by Gilead, the company that makes the drug, it is administered intravenously and is said to block an enzyme that is required for viral replication in otherwise healthy cells.

One local health official said she’s followed clincal trials closely.

“It did seem to shorten hospitalization, I think it was from 14 or 15 days down to 11,” explained Dr. Pam Hudson CEO of Crestwood Medical Center.

Hudson said the drug did not appear to have the same favorable impact on mortality. However, she said it’s still early and that could change, considering some local hospitals already have access to the drug.

“That is great news that medication has been available to hospitals under either a clinical trial, so it has been in the, in the armamentarium for your local hospitals for weeks,” she explained.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama scientists played a major part in the medication’s development.

“I’m very proud of the fact that the University of Alabama in Birmingham, UAB, they had a very big role in Remdesivir,” said Dr. Karen Landers with ADPH. “I mean we have some of the finest medical minds, some of the finest biologists in the world right here in Alabama, and the data looks very promising for Remdesivir.”

Landers, who is also a practicing physician, said it’s important to continue analyzing trial data.

“We expect more information to be coming out regarding this drug, regarding the use of this drug and again, we are encouraged at the way this looks,” she added. “But we really need to see that data to know how this will perform in a larger population of people who have COVID-19.”

The US government said it’s currently working to make the medication available to patients nationwide as quickly as possible.

The Federal Drug Administration approved emergency use of the drug for treating novel coronavirus patients on May 1.