Major Update: Remdesivir for Adults With COVID-19 : A Living Systematic Review and Meta-analysis for the American College of Physicians Practice Points

Ann Intern Med. 2021 May;174(5):663-672. doi: 10.7326/M20-8148. Epub 2021 Feb 9.


Background: Remdesivir is being studied and used for treatment of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Purpose: To update a previous review of remdesivir for adults with COVID-19, including new meta-analyses of patients with COVID-19 of any severity compared with control.

Data sources: Several sources from 1 January 2020 through 7 December 2020.

Study selection: English-language, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of remdesivir for COVID-19. New evidence is incorporated by using living review methods.

Data extraction: 1 reviewer abstracted data; a second reviewer verified the data. The Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool and GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) method were used.

Data synthesis: The update includes 5 RCTs, incorporating data from a new large RCT and the final results of a previous RCT. Compared with control, a 10-day course of remdesivir probably results in little to no reduction in mortality (risk ratio [RR], 0.93 [95% CI, 0.82 to 1.06]; 4 RCTs) but may result in a small reduction in the proportion of patients receiving mechanical ventilation (RR, 0.71 [CI, 0.56 to 0.90]; 3 RCTs). Remdesivir probably results in a moderate increase in the percentage of patients who recovered and a moderate decrease in serious adverse events and may result in a large reduction in time to recovery. Effect on hospital length of stay or percentage remaining hospitalized is mixed. Compared with a 10-day course for those not requiring ventilation at baseline, a 5-day course may reduce mortality, the need for ventilation, and serious adverse events while increasing the percentage of patients who recovered or clinically improved.

Limitation: Summarizing findings was challenging because of varying disease severity definitions and outcomes.

Conclusion: In hospitalized adults with COVID-19, remdesivir probably results in little to no mortality difference but probably improves the percentage recovered and reduces serious harms and may result in a small reduction in the proportion receiving ventilation. For patients not receiving ventilation, a 5-day course may provide greater benefits and fewer harms with lower drug costs than a 10-day course.

Primary funding source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Monophosphate / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adenosine Monophosphate / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Alanine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Alanine / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • COVID-19 / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Antiviral Agents
  • remdesivir
  • Adenosine Monophosphate
  • Alanine

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19 drug treatment