CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-U.S. FDA authorizes remdesivir drug as emergency treatment for COVID-19

(Corrects to 1.5 million vials from 1 million vials in paragraphs 2 and 5)

WASHINGTON, May 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted authorization to Gilead Sciences Inc for emergency use of its experimental antiviral drug remdesivir to treat patients with COVID-19, it said in a letter to Gilead.

During a meeting in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump, Gilead Chief Executive Daniel O’Day called the move an important first step and said the company was donating 1.5 million vials of the drug to help patients.

Gilead said on Wednesday the drug had helped improve outcomes for patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and provided data suggesting it worked better when given earlier in the course of infection.

The closely watched drug has moved financial markets in recent weeks, following the release of several studies that painted a mixed picture of its effectiveness.

Vice President Mike Pence said the 1.5 million vials would start being distributed to hospitals on Monday. (Reporting by Steve Holland, writing by Jeff Mason; Editing by Sandra Maler and Rosalba O’Brien)