UPDATE : Wednesday, July 15, 2020
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Fake news about new coronavirus drug candidate goes viral
  • By Kim Yun-mi
  • Published 2020.02.11 12:33
  • Updated 2020.02.11 12:33
  • comments 0

Dubious reports are circulating in Korea claiming that a Chinese research institute has snatched the patent of a U.S. drugmaker’s investigational medicine for the treatment of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Some Korean online communities had postings that said, “China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology has registered the patent of remdesivir, developed by Gilead, and the institute is claiming its intellectual property right.”

Gilead Sciences had been developing remdesivir as a treatment for the Ebola virus. The experimental drug showed efficacy in the first U.S. patient infected with the new coronavirus, drawing attention from around the world.

Gilead is conducting a randomized, controlled trial of remdesivir on Chinese patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

Recently, a Korean online posting said remdesivir is the best treatment for the novel coronavirus and that Gilead was planning to provide China with the study results on remdesivir and the manufacturing process for free. The posting also said that the Wuhan Institute of Virology registered the patent of remdesivir, claiming its right to the drug.

The posting claimed that six days before the U.S. confirmed the efficacy of remdesivir, China registered the patent in advance to promote fake news that Chinese researchers have made significant progress in the development of the new coronavirus treatment so that China can own the patent right.

The unverified report brought anti-China and racist comments, as well as abusive languages and other fake news disguised as clarifications.

However, the online posting and comments followed were all false, according to Gilead Sciences Korea.

Although it was true that remdesivir showed therapeutic effects on the first U.S. patient, it was just a result of a single patient. It does not mean that the investigational drug is the best treatment for the new coronavirus, the company said.

Gilead said remdesivir was positive in both in vitro and in vivo activity in animal models against SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronaviruses. In a recent in vitro study, the agent also showed effects against the new coronavirus. However, the company has yet to prove the efficacy and safety of remdesivir against 2019-nCoV in a randomized, controlled study.

It is not true that the Wuhan Institute of Virology registered the patent of remdesivir in China. The institute on Jan. 21 sought the China Patent Office’s approval for an urgent use of the remdesivir patent to fight the new coronavirus.

The system allows an administrative order on a third party to use a patent, regardless of the opinion of the patent holder, for a special public need and compensates the patent holder later.

As the new coronavirus outbreak threatened the Chinese public health, China moved to use an exceptional measure to evaluate the potential of remdesivir and use the drug quickly to treat patients, regardless of Gilead’s opinion.

Even if China compensates the patent holder Gilead, however, the company cannot rule out the possibility of suffering losses depending on the future drug price, because remdesivir is an unauthorized drug now.

Gilead Sciences Korea said it was too early to comment on the issue of remdesivir’s winning license or China’s urgent use of the drug.

“For now, it is important to find whether remdesivir is effective in treating the new coronavirus as soon as possible and supply it when necessary,” the company said. “To do so, we will make every effort to cooperate with the health authorities and experts.”


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