BURLINGTON, Vt. – An experimental drug shown to speed the recovery of COVID-19 patients will soon be available in Vermont on a trial basis, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine announced Monday.
The drug, known as remdesivir, is in short supply. The Department of Human Services said the U.S. has enough for about 78,000 hospitalized patients.
Although there’s hope because the drug has the potential to shorten a patient’s hospital stay by four days, more research is needed, aid Dr. Lindsey Smith, an infectious disease specialist at UVM Medical Center.
“I think the data is still pending on exactly what the best role for this drug is going to be,” Smith said. “The big data that all physicians are anxiously waiting is what group of people actually benefit the most from the drug — those with mild to moderate disease or those with more severe disease.”
Vermont is among the first states chosen by the CDC to receive remdesivir trials. There’s been some questions in Congress about how the federal government decided to allocate its limited supply.
“This administration of course, doesn’t believe in transparency,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas). “Healthcare providers need to know about this. It has been bungled since the very beginning.”
If patients experience shorter hospital stays and the drug becomes more widely available, Dr. Smith said it would go a long way in the fight against COVID-19.
“The downstream implications of that are huge,” Dr. Smith said. “Getting the person home to their family sooner, less risk of hospital acquired infections, then potentially decreasing viral shedding, and decreasing the risk of transmission to someone else.”
It could be months before there’s enough information about the treatment to scale up its use, Smoth said. But the sense of urgency grows every day.
“The flurry in pressure to have drugs for this virus is overwhelming,” Dr. Smith said. “Every clinicians drive is to make somebody feel better and get better and we want to do that, but we can’t risk the safety side of things either.”
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said 2,900 patients at 15 hospitals will be treated with remdesivir.