As more patients head into local emergency rooms, numerous South Florida hospitals say they are dangerously low on remdesivir, a drug that has been shown to help some patients with COVID-19.
The drug has been stockpiled by the federal government, which purchased large supplies of it from manufacturer Gilead Sciences. American hospitals may purchase the drug in amounts that are allocated by the U.S. Health and Human Services, based on a hospital’s size.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday during a news conference that he has asked Vice President Mike Pence for more of the drug for hospitals in our state that are facing a shortage of it.
“They are working on that,” he said, adding he had spoken to Pence about the issue on Wednesday night. “We want to get it there [to the hospitals] as soon as possible.”
He added that the federal government is now sending shipments directly to hospitals, instead of to state health departments.
In addition, Florida is among the states considered a priority. “This has become the default for standard of care and we want to help with that,” according to DeSantis.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio says he is also assisting:
Over the last 24 hours I have received reports from several #Florida hospitals concerned about their potentially critical shortage of Remdesivir.
I am in contact with federal officials in hopes of addressing this matter immediately.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 13, 2020
Rubio went on to say that some Florida hospitals received two shipments of remdesivir from the federal government in the last week, but are already running short.
“We cannot wait until July 27 when the next shipment is expected,” he said. “Hospitals are still seeking additional supplies of Remdesivir, as well as better communication with the federal government and a shorter lag time between submitting requests and having those requests fulfilled.”
Dr. Sam Fahmy, chief medical officer of Boca Raton Regional Hospital, says, ”We are in a difficult position trying to use a small supply for way more patients who need it than the supply we have to treat them.”
That hospital is not expecting another shipment until July 27. “That’s too long to wait. We have patients who need and can’t get it. We have to be judicious who we give to,” Fahmy adds.
Boca Raton Regional Hospital is owned by Baptist Health South Florida.
“We are urgently working with state and federal officials to identify additional avenues for more remdesivir. This is a critical need across our hospitals and others around the state,” Baptist Health, which owns hospitals in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, said Thursday.
New York promised to help states in need as we were helped when we needed it.
Today we pay it forward.
Tomorrow we will deliver Remdesivir to Florida to help care for COVID patients.
The people of NY stand shoulder to shoulder with Americans fighting this virus. pic.twitter.com/PXi8m3BYAo
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) July 10, 2020
On the west coast of the state, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System’s President and CEO, David Verinder, says that his hospital is completely out of remdesivir.
The shortages come as the drug’s maker released preliminary data which suggests that remdesivir could speed recovery and cut the chance of dying from COVID-19.
Hospitalized people taking remdesivir had a 7.4 percent death rate two weeks after they started treatment, while those who were not taking the drug had a 12.5 percent mortality rate.
Dr. Stanley Marks, chief medical officer for Memorial Healthcare System, said his hospital received some about 140 doses this week. “When you put that in context of how many are in our hospitals, that’s not a lot of medicine,” he said.
On Thursday, state data showed that Memorial Healthcare System had 77 percent of its 1,049 total staffed beds filled and 84 percent of its 130 ICU beds.
Florida has had more than 19,800 hospitalized for the coronavirus in recent months. There are 315,775 positive cases and 4,677 deaths related to COVID-19.