Patients given remdesivir had a recovery time that was almost a third faster than those given a placebo, the first results from a global clinical trial showed.
Preliminary results also suggested a survival benefit, with a lower mortality rate of 8 per cent for the group receiving the drug.
That’s compared with 11.6 per cent for the placebo group, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) said.
More than 1,000 patients have been recruited across the world, including 46 from the UK, for the Adaptive Covid-19 Treatment Trial.
It began at the start of April.
Scientists involved defined recovery as a patient being well enough to come off oxygen, being discharged from hospital or returning to normal activity levels.
During the trial, which involved more than 70 hospitals across the globe, patients were given the antiviral drug every day for 10 days while in hospital.
Professor Mahesh Parmar, director of the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit at UCL, oversaw the EU portion of the trial.
Prof Parmar said scientists will continue to gather further data while the early results are reviewed by regulators.
“These results are very promising indeed. They show that this drug can clearly improve time to recovery,” prof Parmar said.
“Before this drug can be made more widely available, a number of things need to happen: the data and results need to be reviewed by the regulators to assess whether the drug can be licensed and then they need assessment by the relevant health authorities in various countries.
“While this is happening, we will obtain more and longer term data from this trial, and other ones, on whether the drug also prevents deaths from Covid-19.”