Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin said Wednesday it will begin administering remdesivir – an experimental COVID-19 drug that has shown some promise at fighting the coronavirus – to some of its critically ill patients. The health system was recently granted enrollment into California-based biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences’ expanded access program to treat COVID-19 patients with the antiviral medication. Remdesivir is one of a few antiviral medications currently being studied as a possible treatment for COVID-19 and the only one being tested on patients. Froedtert Hospital will administer the medication to a limited number of patients, the health system said. Remdesivir affects cell replication by interfering with the genetic material inside the virus. Eligible patients must be intubated and meet other parameters related to renal and liver function. The safety and efficacy of remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 are currently being evaluated in multiple ongoing Phase 3 clinical trials.Gilead announced Wednesday that an open-label Phase 3 trial indicated that patients taking the medication for a 5-day treatment course experienced similar improvements as those taking a 10-day treatment course. The company reported that more than half of patients in both treatment groups were discharged from the hospital by day 14 of treatment, with 65% of patients in the 5-day treatment group and 54% of patients in the 10-day treatment group achieving “clinical recovery” by day 14. “The study demonstrates the potential for some patients to be treated with a 5-day regimen, which could significantly expand the number of patients who could be treated with our current supply of remdesivir,” said Merdad Parsey, chief medical Officer of Gilead Sciences. “This is particularly important in the setting of a pandemic, to help hospitals and health care workers treat more patients in urgent need of care.”The expanded access program allows drug companies to provide a treatment to patients before it is commercially available, with the primary purpose of diagnosing, monitoring and treating a patient's life-threatening condition. There are 138 sites participating in the expanded access program for remdesivir, according to the National Institutes of Health clinical trials website. "We are excited to be chosen as a site so that we can offer this medication to some of our sickest patients," said Mary Beth Graham, associate chief of the division of Infectious Disease at MCW, medical director of Infection Prevention & Control at Froedtert Hospital and principal investigator on the study. "Remdesivir, along with convalescent plasma, are two promising interventions that we now have available. By participating in trials for remdesivir, as well as for convalescent plasma, we will be adding to the fund of knowledge that is needed to successfully treat COVID-19 and prepare us for the future."Earlier this week, Froedtert & MCW reported that a 27-year-old man has returned home after being treated for COVID-19 with convalescent plasma and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – a life support technology that pumps and oxygenates blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest – at Froedtert Hospital.Get more news and insight in the April 27 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee. Subscribe to get updates in your inbox here.