April 17, 2020 / 1:56 PM / in a month

Gilead increases enrollment target for remdesivir trial in COVID-19 patients

(Reuters) - Gilead Sciences Inc on Friday increased enrollment target by 3,600 for a trial testing its experimental drug, remdesivir, in severe COVID-19 patients, a day after a media report said the drug was showing promise.

FILE PHOTO: A Gilead Sciences Inc. office is shown in Foster City, California, U.S. May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Shares of the company rose 8% after medical news website STAT detailed rapid recovery in fever and respiratory symptoms in COVID-19 patients at the University of Chicago Medicine hospital.

The enrollment estimate in the trial run by Gilead was increased to 6,000 patients from 2,400 previously, according here to clinicaltrials.gov, a register of clinical trials.

Brokerage Piper Sandler said rationale for the increase was to widen access to remdesivir and to gather additional data on the drug, noting that there were no additional changes to the goals.

Gilead did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment on increased enrolment.

The company has previously said it was shifting from a system of individual compassionate-use requests to expanded access programs.

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for the novel coronavirus, which has infected 2.18 million globally, according to a Reuters tally, and remdesivir is one of the treatments that has captured investor attention.

But analysts and the company urged caution on drawing conclusions from the STAT report that also helped buoy the broader markets.

Gilead on Thursday said the totality of the data from the trial needed to be analyzed, and expects to report results from the study in severe COVID-19 patients at the end of the month, and data from other trials in May.

“While the article paints a pretty picture, we think the ensuing exuberance shows a lack of critical analysis,” said Baird analyst Brian Skorney.

Wall Street rose on Friday, also boosted by President Donald Trump’s new guidelines to reopen the economy and Boeing’s plans to resume production. The benchmark S&P 500 index has fallen nearly 12% this year. [.N]

Gilead’s shares, which have risen 17.8% this year, were up nearly 8.1% at $82.71 in noon trading.

“There will no doubt be cautionary announcements by various scientific bodies about the validity of a partial set of results from a tiny trial,” said Jeffrey Halley, a markets analyst at OANDA.

“Markets, though, will likely do their very best to ignore those, preferring to concentrate on ... a potential treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.”

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Shailesh Kuber and Shinjini Ganguli

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