Remdesivir May Help Treat COVID-19. So Who Gets It First?

After the initial distribution of the COVID-19 drug remdesivir to hospitals was heavily criticized, the U.S. federal government has started shipping the medication to state health agencies, who will decide which hospitals receive it.

While this has taken some of the pressure off the federal government, there are still far more COVID-19 patients than available doses of remdesivir.

This leaves states, hospitals, and physicians to make the tough decisions about which patients receive this antiviral medication.

So far, it’s the only medication that has shown any effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Initial distribution of drug lacked transparency

At the end of last month, preliminary data from a remdesivir clinical trial showed that the drug sped up patients’ recovery.

Within days of the announcement, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved remdesivir for emergency useTrusted Source in an effort to speed up patient access to the drug.

Last week, the government began distributing remdesivir directly to hospitals. But it was unclear why some hospitals with low numbers of COVID-19 patients received the drug, while others that had been hard-hit by the pandemic received none.

Shortly after the distribution of remdesivir began, Dr. Benjamin P. Linas, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center, tweeted:

“Apparently the Remdesivir has been distributed. [Boston Medical Center] got none. We have the second highest absolute case count and highest per bed in Boston. We also had no access to early trials. Today, the family of a dying patient asked me why we do not have [remdesivir]. What am I supposed to say?”

After physicians and hospitals expressed outrage, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decided to give remdesivir to state health agencies and let them manage its distribution.

HHS said in its press release that it’s distributing the drug to “areas of the country hardest hit by the pandemic,” but it didn’t specify how that decision was made.

It also expects to deliver remdesivir to all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories, the Veterans Health Administration, and the Indian Health Service. But it offered no timeline.