Remdesivir in Treatment of COVID-19: A Systematic Benefit-Risk Assessment

Drug Saf. 2020 Jul;43(7):645-656. doi: 10.1007/s40264-020-00952-1.


Introduction: There is a need to identify effective, safe treatments for COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) rapidly, given the current, ongoing pandemic. A systematic benefit-risk assessment was designed and conducted to examine the benefit-risk profile of remdesivir in COVID-19 patients compared with standard of care, placebo or other treatments. A key objective of this study was to provide a platform for a dynamic systematic benefit-risk evaluation, which starts with inevitably limited information (to meet the urgent unmet public health need worldwide), then update the benefit-risk evaluation as more data become available.

Methods: The Benefit-Risk Action Team (BRAT) framework was used to assess the overall benefit-risk of the use of remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 compared with standard of care, placebo or other treatments. We searched PubMed, Google Scholar and government agency websites to identify literature reporting clinical outcomes in patients taking remdesivir for COVID-19. A value tree was constructed and key benefits and risks were ranked by two clinicians in order of considered importance.

Results: Using the BRAT method, several key benefits and risks for use of remdesivir in COVID-19 compared with placebo have been identified. In one trial, the benefit of time to clinical improvement was not statistically significant (21 vs 23 days, HR 1.23, 95% CI 0.87-1.75), although the study was underpowered. In another trial, a shorter time to recovery in patients treated with remdesivir was observed (11 vs 15 days), with non-significant reduced mortality risk (8% vs 12%). Risk data were only available from one trial. This trial reported fewer serious adverse events in patients taking remdesivir (18%) compared with the placebo group (26%); however, more patients in the remdesivir group discontinued treatment as a result of an adverse event compared with those patients receiving placebo (12% vs 5%).

Conclusions: Preliminary clinical trial results suggest that there may be a favourable benefit-risk profile for remdesivir compared with placebo in severe COVID-19 infection and further data on benefits would strengthen this evaluation. There is limited safety data for remdesivir, which should be obtained in further studies. The current framework summarises the key anticipated benefits and risks for which further data are needed. Ongoing clinical trial data can be incorporated into the framework when available to provide an updated benefit-risk assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Monophosphate / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adenosine Monophosphate / therapeutic use
  • Alanine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Alanine / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antiviral Agents
  • remdesivir
  • Adenosine Monophosphate
  • Alanine