Background: Remdesivir is an antiviral medicine with properties to inhibit viral replication of SARS-CoV-2. Positive results from early studies attracted media attention and led to emergency use authorisation of remdesivir in COVID-19. A thorough understanding of the current evidence regarding the effects of remdesivir as a treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infection based on randomised controlled trials (RCTs) is required.
Objectives: To assess the effects of remdesivir compared to placebo or standard care alone on clinical outcomes in hospitalised patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection, and to maintain the currency of the evidence using a living systematic review approach.
Search methods: We searched the Cochrane COVID-19 Study Register (which comprises the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), PubMed, Embase, ClinicalTrials.gov, WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, and medRxiv) as well as Web of Science (Science Citation Index Expanded and Emerging Sources Citation Index) and WHO COVID-19 Global literature on coronavirus disease to identify completed and ongoing studies without language restrictions. We conducted the searches on 16 April 2021.
Selection criteria: We followed standard Cochrane methodology. We included RCTs evaluating remdesivir for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection in hospitalised adults compared to placebo or standard care alone irrespective of disease severity, gender, ethnicity, or setting. We excluded studies that evaluated remdesivir for the treatment of other coronavirus diseases.
Data collection and analysis: We followed standard Cochrane methodology. To assess risk of bias in included studies, we used the Cochrane RoB 2 tool for RCTs. We rated the certainty of evidence using the GRADE approach for outcomes that were reported according to our prioritised categories: all-cause mortality at up to day 28, duration to liberation from invasive mechanical ventilation, duration to liberation from supplemental oxygen, new need for mechanical ventilation (high-flow oxygen or non-invasive or invasive mechanical ventilation), new need for invasive mechanical ventilation, new need for non-invasive mechanical ventilation or high-flow oxygen, new need for oxygen by mask or nasal prongs, quality of life, adverse events (any grade), and serious adverse events.
Main results: We included five RCTs with 7452 participants diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection and a mean age of 59 years, of whom 3886 participants were randomised to receive remdesivir. Most participants required low-flow oxygen (n=4409) or mechanical ventilation (n=1025) at baseline. We identified two ongoing studies, one was suspended due to a lack of COVID-19 patients to recruit. Risk of bias was considered to be of some concerns or high risk for clinical status and safety outcomes because participants who had died did not contribute information to these outcomes. Without adjustment, this leads to an uncertain amount of missing values and the potential for bias due to missing data. Effects of remdesivir in hospitalised individuals Remdesivir probably makes little or no difference to all-cause mortality at up to day 28 (risk ratio (RR) 0.93, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.81 to 1.06; risk difference (RD) 8 fewer per 1000, 95% CI 21 fewer to 7 more; 4 studies, 7142 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). Considering the initial severity of condition, only one study showed a beneficial effect of remdesivir in patients who received low-flow oxygen at baseline (RR 0.32, 95% CI 0.15 to 0.66, 435 participants), but conflicting results exists from another study, and we were unable to validly assess this observations due to limited availability of comparable data. Remdesivir may have little or no effect on the duration to liberation from invasive mechanical ventilation (2 studies, 1298 participants, data not pooled, low-certainty evidence). We are uncertain whether remdesivir increases or decreases the chance of clinical improvement in terms of duration to liberation from supplemental oxygen at up to day 28 (3 studies, 1691 participants, data not pooled, very low-certainty evidence). We are very uncertain whether remdesivir decreases or increases the risk of clinical worsening in terms of new need for mechanical ventilation at up to day 28 (high-flow oxygen or non-invasive ventilation or invasive mechanical ventilation) (RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.48 to 1.24; RD 29 fewer per 1000, 95% CI 68 fewer to 32 more; 3 studies, 6696 participants; very low-certainty evidence); new need for non-invasive mechanical ventilation or high-flow oxygen (RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.98; RD 72 fewer per 1000, 95% CI 118 fewer to 5 fewer; 1 study, 573 participants; very low-certainty evidence); and new need for oxygen by mask or nasal prongs (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.54 to 1.22; RD 84 fewer per 1000, 95% CI 204 fewer to 98 more; 1 study, 138 participants; very low-certainty evidence). The evidence suggests that remdesivir may decrease the risk of clinical worsening in terms of new need for invasive mechanical ventilation (67 fewer participants amongst 1000 participants; RR 0.56, 95% CI 0.41 to 0.77; 2 studies, 1159 participants; low-certainty evidence). None of the included studies reported quality of life. Remdesivir probably decreases the serious adverse events rate at up to 28 days (RR 0.75, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.90; RD 63 fewer per 1000, 95% CI 94 fewer to 25 fewer; 3 studies, 1674 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). We are very uncertain whether remdesivir increases or decreases adverse events rate (any grade) (RR 1.05, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.27; RD 29 more per 1000, 95% CI 82 fewer to 158 more; 3 studies, 1674 participants; very low-certainty evidence).
Authors' conclusions: Based on the currently available evidence, we are moderately certain that remdesivir probably has little or no effect on all-cause mortality at up to day 28 in hospitalised adults with SARS-CoV-2 infection. We are uncertain about the effects of remdesivir on clinical improvement and worsening. There were insufficient data available to validly examine the effect of remdesivir on mortality in subgroups depending on the extent of respiratory support at baseline. Future studies should provide additional data on efficacy and safety of remdesivir for defined core outcomes in COVID-19 research, especially for different population subgroups. This could allow us to draw more reliable conclusions on the potential benefits and harms of remdesivir in future updates of this review. Due to the living approach of this work, we will update the review periodically.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04280705 NCT04292730 NCT04257656 NCT04315948 NCT04321616 NCT04330690 NCT04647669 NCT04252664 NCT04596839.
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