Forecasting an 80% chance of an effective anti COVID-19 drug (probably Remdesivir)

post by AllAmericanBreakfast · 2020-03-15T19:21:31.187Z · LW · GW · 6 comments

I'm gathering info on anti-COVID-19 drug efforts. Here is what I've compiled so far. I've combined the number of trials in various phases with big data on expected success rates for drugs in those phases to forecast an 80% probability that at least one drug currently in phase 1-3 testing will be approved. Because trial efforts are unusual, I've used the following categories in my model:

0: pre-trial (not factored into probability of success)

1: new drug in early testing

2: approved drug being tested against COVID-19

3: official phase 3 trial

This is just the product of a morning's research, so if anybody finds better information, I'd appreciate it if you'd link a source so I can include it.

Remdesivir is the drug we'll know about soonest - one expert is quoted as saying in a couple months, so around May 2020. Other analysts say they're optimistic that production can be scaled up quickly. It treats the pneumonia of severe cases, so it might cut down on mortality. Other treatments are also being tested.

The CDC projects that "In the coming months, most of the U.S. population will be exposed to this virus." If the virus grows exponentially, the relative timing of a Remdesivir rollout and a COVID-19 explosion could matter hugely in terms of mortality.

Remdesivir has been administered via compassionate use permission already for at least 15 patients who weren't part of the trial (which is recruiting volunteers now). So although we won't know its effectiveness for a while, if it is effective, it can potentially begin saving lives immediately via compassionate use permission.

6 comments

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comment by Lukas_Gloor · 2020-03-15T22:05:10.658Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The person in the 2nd Sam Harris podcast on Covid-19 seemed to say that the evidence by now indicates Remdesivir is less than 50% likely to work out, mostly because it doesn't seem to do enough for its side effect profile. Do you have thoughts on that?

(Of course, "less than 50%" could still be really promising overall!)

(My impression of the podcast guest was quite negative in general, but on this particular topic I saw no reason why he'd be mistaken.)

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2020-03-17T16:25:51.983Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't see him saying that. I didn't listen to the podcast, but I used speech-to-text to search. Every youtube video uploaded these days has a transcript. On a computer (not phone) click on the three dots under the video to the right of share/save and choose "open transcript." I looked at the 16 times he mentioned antivirals. Speech-to-text isn't good enough to search for "remdesivir," but it was mentioned at 44 minutes. (I also searched for side effects. This is more a concern for vaccines given to healthy people than antivirals given to people who are already sick.)

(Also, castbox is a podcast app that has transcripts of podcasts not on youtube, but I haven't had a lot of luck with it.)

comment by AllAmericanBreakfast · 2020-03-15T22:38:38.361Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, do you know at what point during the podcast he makes that forecast? I haven't been able to find a quote from him anywhere else online about that, and I don't have time to listen to the whole thing for the next few days.

comment by Lukas_Gloor · 2020-03-15T23:36:26.300Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't remember the place, but maybe if someone sees this comment and wanted to listen to the podcast anyway, they can report once they find it!

comment by AllAmericanBreakfast · 2020-03-15T22:30:50.471Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm sure Amesh Adalja knows better than me! Thanks for the link.