Gilead stock falls after disappointing early trial results for highly anticipated coronavirus treatment

Stock trading was briefly halted Thursday for California-based Gilead Sciences, after a draft report said the company’s experimental coronavirus treatment disappointed in a recent drug trial.

Shares continued to slump, even after the biotech company moved quickly to dispute the findings of the World Health Organization study into the effectiveness of its anti-viral drug, remdesivir. The results were accidentally published online, before being taken down.

Gilead’s statement helped steady afternoon trading.

“We believe the post included inappropriate characterizations of the study. Importantly, because this study was terminated early due to low enrollment, it was underpowered to enable statistically meaningful conclusions,” the company said in a statement.

“It went on to describe the early results as “inconclusive,” and added: “Trends in the data suggest a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early in disease.”

According to earlier reporting by NBC News, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found the drug improved breathing in some patients, though only 53 people were involved in the study.

In the majority of the patients — 68 percent — doctors were able to reduce the amount of oxygen support needed. In addition, 17 of 30 patients who had been on ventilators were able to come off those machines — a key factor, since COVID-19 patients who need to be put on ventilators appear to be more likely to suffer long-term health consequences, and may have worse outcomes.

Gilead’s shares have taken a rollercoaster ride in recent weeks as Wall Street clings to any hope that a treatment can be found for the deadly virus. Last week, stock soared by 13 percent after STAT news reported that a Chicago hospital treating coronavirus patients with remdesivir in a trial were recovering rapidly from severe symptoms.

COVID-19 does not have a vaccine or a treatment, and scientists are racing to figure out ways to assist patients suffering from the previously unseen virus. Another treatment, hydroxychloroquine, promoted from the White House by President Donald Trump, has seen mixed results and, in some cases, deaths.

Investors have said that news of an effective treatment or vaccine would be needed for stocks to mount a sustainable comeback.

“Remdesivir sounds like something that can get people out of hospitals quickly,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said in a tweet last week. “That allows our economy to have a fighting chance. I think that remdesivir would cut the morbidity … which would change how quickly we can open… and what we can do.”

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