FTSE 100 boosted amid optimism over potential coronavirus drug

Optimism surrounding a potential new treatment for Covid-19 has boosted the FTSE 100 stock index, amid claims that a drug called remdesivir has spurred rapid recovery in 113 patients.

A University of Chicago hospital participating in a study of the antiviral medication, made by US firm Gilead Sciences, reportedly found that nearly all patients suffering fever and respiratory symptoms were discharged within a week. The report, by healthcare publication Stat News, spurred hopes among investors that lockdowns around the world could be eased.

The FTSE 100 gained more than 3% – or 191 points – to 5819 in early trading on Friday, while Wall Street is expected to open higher on the back of hopes for the drug, first developed as a treatment for the Ebola virus. Gilead shares added 14% in after-hours trading on Thursday evening.

Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at share trading firm IG, said: “Trial results have breathed a new sense of optimism into markets, with many seeing this as the potential beginning of the end for this coronavirus crisis.”

The University of Chicago recruited 125 people into a clinical trial, according to the report, 113 of whom tested positive for Covid-19, with all of them receiving daily remdesivir doses. Two patients died but most of the rest have already been discharged after their symptoms eased significantly.

Last month, Donald Trump flagged up the potential of remdesivir, saying it “seems to have a very good result”.

In a statement, Gilead said: “What we can say at this stage is that we look forward to data from ongoing studies becoming available.”

The biotechnology company, based in Foster City, California, had previously said to expect results for its trial involving severe cases in April.

In a video obtained by Stat News, Kathleen Mullane, the infectious disease specialist overseeing the study, said it was hard to draw conclusions because remdesivir is not being compared against results from a group taking a placebo drug.

“But certainly when we start [the] drug, we see fever curves falling,” she said. “We have seen people come off ventilators a day after starting therapy. So, in that realm, overall our patients have done very well.

“Most of our patients are severe and most of them are leaving at six days, so that tells us duration of therapy doesn’t have to be 10 days. We have very few that went out to 10 days, maybe three.”

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