Gilead’s shares rise on report of experimental drug’s promise in COVID-19

(Reuters) – Shares of Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O) rose 8% on Friday after a report that patients with COVID-19 treated with the company’s experimental drug, remdesivir, in a clinical trial showed rapid recovery in fever and respiratory symptoms.

FILE PHOTO: A Gilead Sciences Inc. office is shown in Foster City, California, U.S. May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for the novel coronavirus, which has infected 2.18 million globally, according to a Reuters tally, and remdesivir is one of the treatments that has captured investor attention.

But analysts and the company urged caution on drawing conclusions from the report by medical news website STAT that also helped buoy the broader markets.

Gilead said the totality of the data from the trial needed to be analyzed, and expects to report results from a study in severe COVID-19 patients at the end of the month, and data from other trials in May.

The report said the University of Chicago Medicine Hospital was seeing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms in patients with severe COVID-19 in a trial of the drug it was participating in.

“While the article paints a pretty picture, we think the ensuing exuberance shows a lack of critical analysis,” said Baird analyst Brian Skorney.

Skorney added investors looking for a definitive conclusion when data from a study testing patients with severe COVID-19 is reported will likely be disappointed, as the study offers no control, “just five days of remdesivir vs. 10 days of remdesivir.”

Gilead also raised the trial enrollment of patients in the trial testing it in severe coronavirus patients to 6,000 from 2,400 – which Piper Sandler analysts said was in order to increase access to the drug.

Wall Street rose on Friday, also boosted by President Donald Trump’s new guidelines to reopen the economy and Boeing’s plans to resume production. The benchmark S&P 500 index .SPX has fallen nearly 12% this year.

Gilead’s shares, which have risen 17.8% this year, were up nearly 8.1% at $82.71 in noon trading.

“There will no doubt be cautionary announcements by various scientific bodies about the validity of a partial set of results from a tiny trial,” said Jeffrey Halley, a markets analyst at OANDA.

“Markets, though, will likely do their very best to ignore those, preferring to concentrate on … a potential treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.”

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shailesh Kuber

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