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Drug being tested on San Diego COVID-19 patients proven to battle virus

Remdesivir is proven to lessen recovery time for those who have the novel coronavirus, and in some cases, save lives.

SAN DIEGO — A drug being tested in San Diego on patients who have COVID-19 is getting worldwide attention, after the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases praised it, saying it can block the virus.

It's called Remdesivir. It's not a vaccine, so it won't prevent people from getting COVID-19. But it's proven to lessen recovery time for those who have it, and in some cases, save lives.

"If you look at the time to recovery being shorter in the Remdesivir arm, it was 11 days compared to 15 days," said Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

RELATED: Gilead drug remdesivir proves effective against COVID-19 in US study

RELATED: Early results for Gilead coronavirus drug show patients recovering quickly

Speaking from the Oval Office, Dr. Fauci said the drug Remdesivir is giving new hope in the fight against Covid-19.

"This drug happens to be blocking an enzyme that the virus uses," he said.

Manufactured by California-based Gilead Sciences, Remdesivir has been around for years. It was in development during the SARS epidemic in 2002, then used to treat Ebola.

Now, it's part of a clinical trial conducted by the National Institutes of Health, involving more than 1,000 hospitalized patients throughout the U.S., including here in San Diego.

The results so far? Those receiving it recovered 31% faster and were slightly less likely to die than those getting a placebo.

"I thought I wouldn't leave the ER alive," said Tierrasanta resident Rich Pickett who was given Remdesivir.

He had a severe case of coronavirus and spent 10 days on a ventilator.

"I believe it had a significant impact on my success," he said.

RELATED: COVID-19 survivor thanks Kaiser Permanente medical staff for saving his life

Rich was treated at Kaiser Permanente. Elsewhere, medical officials at UCSD have also been testing the drug.

"We're very excited about these results at this point," said UCSD Dr. Daniel Sweeney.

Sweeney and another UCSD doctor Constance Benson said because of the positive results so far, they're now removing the placebo and adding another drug to test out how it works hand in hand with Remdesivir.

And while it's not FDA approved just yet, officials are working to fast track the process so it can be available to more patients.

“For all of us getting fatigued by a lot of bad news with deaths and new cases of COVID-19, the fact that we have a glimmer of hope from a treatment for COVID-19 is a major accomplishment and a major reason for hope," said Dr. Benson.

The drug is given through an IV, so it's only been tested on hospitalized patients.

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