LUBBOCK, Texas — The first case of the experimental drug remdesivir, which is used to treat coronavirus, arrived at University Medical Center on Wednesday. The first patient was prescribed the medication on Thursday.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has distributed 1,200 vials of remdesivir to hospitals across Texas.
Dr. Victor Test, Professor of Medicine Chief of Pulmonary Medicine Critical Care and Director of the Intensive Medical Care Unit Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, said the drug can help patients recover faster.
“What the virus does is it attaches itself to the machinery that helps the cells replicate and divide and it takes over that to produce virus, and this medicine blocks that,” Test said.
UMC received 40 vials Wednesday. Dr. Test said this may seem like a lot, however the drug will only go to a few patients.
“Depending on which regimen you use, there’s a short regimen and a long regimen–between three and five patients,” Test said.
The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization, and medical staff across Texas hospitals will determine how the drug will be used, and are tasked with reporting any complications they may come across.
“The FDA has also given guidelines how to dose the medication but they leave that a lot to us,” Test said. “Other than that the rules are relatively free.”
Preliminary data from the NIH reports remdesivir has shown to cut the recovery time from 15 to 11 days. The mortality rate also dropped from 11.6 percent for those on a placebo and 8 percent for those on remdesivir. This is based on a trial of a little more than a thousand patients.
“There will be some people who die after they receive the medicine although it reduces that risk,” Test said.
While UMC has just received its first case of remdesivir, Larry Pineda, Clinical Pharmacist in Infectious Diseases with Covenant Health, said they have received the drug since mid-April.
“We’ve been accessing remdesivir through the expanded access protocol and so that’s a different clinical trial avenue,” Pineda said.
Pineda said the drug has only been given to a handful of patients, but the results have been positive.
With such a limited supply however, this presents a challenge to healthcare workers.
“Picking the ideal patient to receive a limited supply of medication really taxes your brain and your heart a little bit because we want to do everything we can to help people get better,” Test said.
Still, Test and Pineda agree — the drug is no miracle solution.
“Remdesivir has certainly had a lot of good press lately,” Test said. “But, I’m not sure that we have enough data to say that it’s everything that we can want in a drug to treat this disease. On the other hand, we’re excited to have another tool. So we want to move forward and hopefully it will be everything that we hoped.”