The state of Wyoming has received a limited shipment of remdesivir, the experimental drug that’s shown promise in fighting the novel coronavirus, according to a memo that’s been sent to health care providers across the state.
Late last month, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease announced that preliminary findings indicated that patients who received remdesivir recovered faster than patients with a placebo. If those findings hold, then the medication would prove to be the first treatment to improve the outlook for seriously ill coronavirus patients. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug earlier this month for emergency use.
But the supply of remdesivir is limited, and its distribution is being handled by the federal government. Gilead, the manufacturer of the drug, said in a statement that in January, it only had enough to treat 5,000 patients. That had increased by the end of March to 30,000. The company’s goal, it said, is to have 140,000 treatments ready by the end of May, 500,000 by October, and more than a million by December.
According to guidance posted on the Health Department’s website, Wyoming has “200 remdesivir injection” vials, which “represents approximately 18-33 patients depending on the dosing regimens required.”
Wyoming hospitals and providers can tap into the state’s supply of the drug “on request to treat specific patients” who are seriously ill with the disease.
“It is not known at this time whether WDH will receive additional shipments of Remdesivir,” the department wrote. “In order to ensure that Remdesivir is available to severely ill patients, WDH asks that providers request the medication for patients who have laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, who are worsening despite supportive measures or are unlikely to improve with supportive measures alone, and who are likely to require hospitalizations for at least 5 days, the length of the shortest possible course of treatment.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, 513 confirmed cases of the coronavirus had been identified in Wyoming, along with 162 probable cases. At least 65 of those patients have been hospitalized, according to state data.
Of the combined 675 confirmed and probable cases, 477 people have recovered from the virus in Wyoming.
According to CNN, the federal government began distributing the drug last week to some hospitals. After doctors expressed frustration at how that process worked, the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would give the drug to state health departments to distribute.
Last week, a Wyoming Medical Center intensive care doctor told the Star-Tribune that the facility — which has treated several seriously ill coronavirus patients, three of whom have died — has only been able to treat one or two patients with the drug. He said he had called Sen. John Barrasso about getting more of the drug and that the vast majority of the drug was being distributed to larger population centers hit harder by the drug.
“There’s no way you can get a little bit on the side,” the doctor, Mark Mc Ginley said.
Before remdesivir, there had been no clearly identified treatment for the virus, which has killed more than 82,000 people in the United States in about eight weeks. In the early weeks of the pandemic, President Donald Trump and others suggested that a malaria drug, when combined with a common antibiotic, could be effective in treating the virus, citing as evidence a small European study.
But a New York study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that patients showed no improvement when given the drug cocktail.