Coronavirus Social: NEJM Remdesivir Article Divides Twitter

Liz Neporent

April 14, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

New data published in the New England Journal of Medicine about the investigational antiviral drug remdesivir (Gilead) have been dominating the conversation on Medical Twitter for days.

The report suggests the drug may be useful in fighting the novel coronavirus, but experts warn that the results come from compassionate use in a small number of patients, with no control group.

Twitter users' reactions to the study seemed to fall along several lines. The first, excited and hopeful, was represented by a tweet from Joel Topf, MD, a Detroit nephrologist.

"Ladies and gentleman, I think we have a therapy," he tweeted.

https://twitter.com/kidney_boy/status/1248758530578014209

Others were unimpressed with the results.

"11 reasons the fresh NEJM paper on remdesivir is some hot garbage," tweeted Josh Farkas, MD, an intensivist from Vermont, adding a link to his blog explaining all the problems with the study.

https://twitter.com/PulmCrit/status/1248912063013040128

A common criticism of the study was the lack of a control group and the tiny patient sample size.

"Excuse me @NEJM but without a control group what does that mean? Is it better or worse than without? We could also say that 68% of patients coming to the hospital with brown shoes improve. So what?," tweeted Maurizio Cecconi, MD, an anesthesiologist who is the co–vice-chair and president elect of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine.

https://twitter.com/DrMCecconi/status/1248868782191378432

Some physician tweets went even further, lamenting the effect of the coronavirus on the peer review process, like this reaction from pediatrician Sebastián González-Dambrauskas, MD.

"I want to cry looking at this paper. #COVID19 has definitely destroyed peer review process @NEJM publishes this paper COI present More authors than patients No control group Nobody can tell if the drug improves any outcome I need help to swallow this..."

https://twitter.com/sgdambrauskas/status/1248731936681590785

Whatever their opinion, physicians have been tweeting up a storm about the study and the drug. More than 5000 tweets by physicians have mentioned remdesivir in the past 3 days alone, according to data from the healthcare social media monitoring service, Symplur. It's also bubbled up into Twitter trends several times since the study was published.

Liz Neporent is Medscape's executive editor of social media and community. She has previously worked at ABC News National as well as other major news outlets. She's based in New York City and can be reached at lneporent@medscape.net or @ lizzyfit on Twitter.

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