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An ampule of remdesivir is pictured during a news conference at the University Hospital Eppendorf, in Hamburg, Germany, on April 8, 2020.POOL New/Reuters

Health Canada has approved the use of remdesivir to treat patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19.

The federal agency says the antiviral drug may be used to treat patients who have pneumonia and require extra oxygen to help them breathe.

It’s the first drug that Health Canada has authorized for the treatment of COVID-19. Health Canada approved its use in adults and adolescents.

Remdesivir, which has been shown to shorten hospital stays, is administered intravenously and will be used only on patients that can be closely monitored.

Until now, a small number of patients have been treated with remdesivir in Canada under a special access program.

The drug has also been granted emergency or conditional authorization in the United States, Europe, Japan, Singapore and Australia.

Two clinical trials authorized by Health Canada are ongoing to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of remdesivir.

Remdesivir is sold under the brand name Veklury and manufactured by Gilead Sciences Canada.

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