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COVID-19 drug props up Gilead shares as pandemic tanks markets

Gilead Sciences Inc.'s remdesivir, the first U.S.-authorized treatment for COVID-19, has driven the pharmaceutical company's stock up as the overall markets tumbled amid the pandemic.

Foster City, Calif.-based Gilead outperformed the markets by almost 30 points as of May 8. Gilead's stock was just over $65 per share Jan. 2 and has risen to almost $78 as of May 12.

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Remdesivir entered human trials first in China at the beginning of February, followed by announcements that the U.S. federal government and Gilead would begin conducting U.S. trials. The drug was previously unapproved but has been tested to treat patients with Ebola, SARS and MERS.

Gilead's share price fell in April when the Chinese trial stopped enrolling patients, and again when poor results were revealed in error. But shortly thereafter on April 29, the U.S. trial, which employed a placebo arm required for scientific rigor, showed improvement in COVID-19 patients' conditions and the stock recovered.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for remdesivir May 1. This triggered a fall in share price as public attention turned to access issues regarding the drug, with medical groups calling for equitable distribution.

Gilead executives are aiming to massively scale up manufacturing, including joining forces with manufacturers like Mylan NV and others.