- A promising coronavirus treatment called remdesivir was approved last week for emergency use in the US.
- Now, some hospitals are having a hard time getting the drug for their patients.
- The US government is deciding which hospitals will get the drug and how much they will get.
- Business Insider spoke with clinicians at 10 hospitals and health systems. Most said they weren’t sure when, or whether, they’d get the drug.
- Click here to read the full story, available exclusively to BI Prime subscribers.
Dr. Tony Reed, the chief medical officer at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, has seen remdesivir in action. The hospital system gave the drug to patients in trials to help figure out how well the coronavirus treatment works.
When US regulators approved the emergency use of remdesivir on Friday, saying the treatment could help some severely ill patients recover more quickly, Reed and the team at Temple expected that they’d get more access to the medication.
The approval decision made distribution of remdesivir the responsibility of the US government.
In the days since, Reed has been told that Temple is not on the government’s list, meaning it won’t be able to get additional doses of the medication, outside of the trial still underway.
That’s left Reed feeling frustrated, in part because of how many COVID-19 patients the hospital is seeing. Temple’s hospitals have had just under 1,000 COVID-19 admissions, Reed said.
“We’re frustrated we’re not in the haves and we’re frustrated that we don’t know how that decision was made,” Reed said. “Frankly, I’ve got sick and dying patients that last week, I was able to get on the study drug, and this week I’m not able to get on the drug I know can help them.”
As the government figures out which hospitals will get the drug, severely ill patients who should qualify for treatment aren’t getting it, doctors across the country told Business Insider.
In some cases, hospitals don’t have the drug on hand yet, or aren’t able to give it to patients outside the narrow confines of clinical trials. Clinicians said they aren’t sure when it will come or how much supply they’ll get.
“There are people who are getting diagnosed right now who qualify for treatment and don’t have access to it,” said Dr. Taison Bell, an infectious disease and critical care physician at the University of Virginia.
Bell said he didn’t know when, or if, Virginia’s medical center would get a supply of the drug provided via the emergency use order.
Any delay may be harmful to patients. Antivirals like remdesivir generally work better when given earlier on in the course of an infection. Gilead Sciences, the biotech company that makes remdesivir, has put out some preliminary data suggesting that may be the case with this drug as well.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which some hospitals were told is handling allocation, deferred a request for comment to the US Department of Health and Human Services. HHS didn’t respond to questions from Business Insider.
The agencies are using AmerisourceBergen to ship the drug to selected hospitals. AmerisourceBergen declined to comment.
Gilead has said it’s providing its entire existing supply of the drug, about 140,000 treatment courses, to patients at no cost, and the company is working to ramp up production. CEO Dan O’Day said on Wednesday that the company began shipping the drug over the weekend and the government is overseeing deliveries.
Business Insider spoke with 10 hospitals about whether they had gotten supplies of the medication through the emergency authorization, or when and how they expected to get access to it. Most said they weren’t sure when, or whether, they’d get the drug. Three said they might get supplies this week.