SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Friday it will continue to administer remdesivir to COVID-19 patients in the face of looming controversy over the efficacy of the antiviral drug.
The decision came as the World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week that its studies showed remdesivir had little or no effect on COVID-19 patients' mortality rates or on reducing the length of their hospital stays.
According to the WHO's "Solidarity" trial, four potential drug regimens, including remdesivir, showed disappointing results in helping with treatment of COVID-19. The other three drug regimens were hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon.
"We need to maintain the use of remdesivir to treat COVID-19, as its effectiveness is believed to have scientific evidence," the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said in a statement.
Since July, South Korea has administered remdesivir, an experimental drug developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. and conventionally used to treat Ebola, to more than 600 patients here.
The drug safety ministry said it has concluded that the report by the WHO needs further review and that it will continue the use of remdesivir for the time being.
The drug has drawn keen attention around the globe after the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said its tests showed that the drug "accelerates recovery" of COVID-19 patients.
On Thursday (U.S. time), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved remdesivir for treating coronavirus patients, making it the first and only drug approved for the disease in the United States.
As of end-September, a total of 11 cases of possible remdesivir adverse effects has been reported here.
By type of side effects, there were three cases of acute increase in liver enzymes, three of skin rash, two of hives and two cases of premature contraction of the ventricles in the heart. There was one reported cases of vomiting, the data showed.
South Korea, meanwhile, added 155 more COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 138 domestic infections, raising the total caseload to 25,698, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.