Clinical trials find no increase in mortality among COVID-19 patients treated with remdesivir, contrary to what is claimed on social media


By Saranac Hale Spencer

SciCheck Compendium

Remdesivir is the only antiviral drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19. But in a video clip that has gone viral on social media, a retired chiropractor falsely claims that the drug is “killing people.” Studies have shown that the use of remdesivir can result in faster recovery for hospitalized patients.

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On March 4, Doug Mastriano, a Republican state senator from Pennsylvania who rented buses for the January 6 rally and was subpoenaed to testify by the committee investigating the riots that followed, hosted a panel called “Discussing COVID-19. 19 and medical freedom”.

A video clip of that panel has been widely shared on partisan social media accounts, appearing on platforms targeting conservative audiences such as Rumble, GETTR and BitChute, as well as mainstream platforms like TikTok, Facebook and Twitter.

The clip features Bryan Ardis, a retired chiropractor who sells purported acne treatments online and hosts a show frequently making dubious claims about the pandemic. Ardis used his appearance on the Mastriano forum to spread a claim he had made before.

Referring to the only antiviral drug that has, so far, been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for COVID-19 patients, Ardis said “remdesivir is killing people […] it is proven that remdesivir kills lives”.

But the only support Ardis offered for his claim was a reference to data he said he received directly from Thomas Renz, a lawyer who was also on Mastriano’s panel. The data, he said, showed that among patients of “Medicare age” who received a five-day course of remdesivir at New York hospitals, “26.9% of them died.”

We emailed Ardis to send us a copy of the data and evidence that the drug caused these deaths, but we received no response.

Remdesivir was first approved in October 2020 for use in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. As we have explained before, randomized controlled clinical trials found that the drug led to faster recovery times and statistically significant odds of improving conditions among hospitalized patients with mild to severe COVID-19, compared to people who received the drug. standard care plus a placebo.

On January 21, the FDA extended approval for the use of remdesivir for high-risk outpatients as part of the agency’s response to the omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. That decision was based on a clinical trial that showed patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 could benefit from early treatment with the drug. High-risk patients who received remdesivir for three days to one week after symptom onset had an 87% lower chance of hospitalization or death compared to those who received a placebo.

We don’t know what time period the Ardis data covers or how sick those patients were to begin with, but there is no evidence in the clips circulating on social media or in the panel to support the claim that the drug itself caused any of The deaths.

Some patients with severe COVID-19 who were treated with remdesivir have died, but there is no evidence that remdesivir caused their deaths. In fact, clinical trials did not find an increase in mortality among patients who were treated with the drug.

It may be true that 26.9% of “Medicare age” patients who received remdesivir in New York have died at some point. After all, they were probably very sick with COVID-19. But on its own, the statistic isn’t significant because it doesn’t mention the mortality rate of similar patients who didn’t receive the drug.

This is not the first time Ardis has made this claim. Last year, as a guest on Alex Jones’ conspiracy show InfoWars, Ardis referred to remdesivir, saying, “They’re pushing a narrative to kill as many Americans as possible.”

Other fact-checkers, including MedPage Today, First Draft, and Health Feedback, have addressed this Ardis claim on other occasions.

It is also important to note that while remdesivir is the only antiviral that has received full FDA approval as a treatment for COVID-19, it is not the only drug available. Other treatment options that have received emergency use authorization include the oral antiviral drug Paxlovid, which has been the treatment of choice for outpatients with COVID-19.

Translated by Catalina Jaramillo.

Editor’s Note: The SciCheck Vaccination/COVID-19 Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control about editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase access to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, and reduce the impact of misinformation.

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