The Korean health authorities are moving to introduce remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 through special import. The move comes after the central clinical trials committee, which includes clinicians treating COVID-19 patients, reached conclusion that the drug is necessary for treating the viral disease. The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention will soon apply for special import of the foreign drug to the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.
“Clinical trial results of remdsivir in South Korea and the U.S. are positive,” Food and Drug Safety Minister Lee Eui-kyung said Friday. “We are currently preparing to introduce the drug.”
The special import system is designed to introduce medical products quickly in an emergent situation. Under the system, import item approval and reporting process can be exempt for certain pharmaceutical products. If the ministry approves special import, the health authorities will procure the drug in consultation with the drug manufacturer. It is difficult, however, to predict when remdesivir can actually be imported to South Korea due to the insufficient supply of the drug.
Remdesivir was developed as an Ebola treatment by U.S. biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences. The U.S. National Institutes of Health recently announced results of a study, which shows that remdesivir can reduce the treatment period of COVID-19 patients by about four days from 15 days to 11 days.
The South Korean health authorities plan to apply the drug to critically ill patients who suffer from pneumonia and require ventilator treatment, and put in place a process to monitor any possible adverse effect.