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Baton Rouge hospital running low on FDA-approved COVID-19 treatment

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BATON ROUGE -- Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center says its current supply of Remdesivir for COVID-19 patients may only last a few more weeks.

Federal authorities said last week that the country's stock of the drug will likely run out at the end of this month.

OLOL has been treating both serious and moderate COVID cases with Remdesivir since late April.

"What we're comfortable saying, in terms of utilization of Remdesivir, is that at current pace, it is the evidence-based, best-tracked practice drug,” said Dr. Christopher Thomas, a pulmonologist at OLOL.

Thomas says that after two months of routinely giving doses of Remdesivir to coronavirus patients, they're seeing similar results to a study that pushed the drug into the national spotlight.

"What we saw is that patients who were given the drug had a reduction in their hospital length of stay from 14 days to 11 days, and a trend toward an improvement in mortality,” Thomas said.

On Monday, another drug being used as a possible treatment, hydroxychloroquine, was dropped by the FDA for emergency-use authorization.

It and Remdesivir were the only drugs that have been given that status during the pandemic so far.

"Hydroxychloroquine was approved due to hope. But not the same standards that we had looked at in terms of how we write medications. Remdesivir has a very high standard clinical trial done in lots of countries involving lots of patients,” Thomas said.

OLOL first had access to Remdesivir through clinical trials before it was given emergency use authorization by the FDA. Now, the trials have ended and it's currently being used as a first-line, standard of care treatment at the hospital.

Thomas says the drug, administered through an IV, seems to be most effective when given to moderately ill patients.

"Patients who arrive to the hospital, who need a small amount of oxygen and rapidly get better, they don't need this medication. Patients who come to the hospital, stay for greater than 48 hours, and look like the amount of oxygen they need is increasing, those patients get the drug."

In early May, the parent company of the drug, Gilead Sciences, provided the federal government with more than 600,000 doses of Remdesivir. Those doses were then given out to state governments and health departments. Now, Thomas says, supplies are now running low.

"At current pace we have, days on hand, probably at least somewhere between two weeks to a month,” he said.

Thomas says that each patient requires between six and eleven doses of the drug. How much of it will be needed heavily depends on if we see another surge in coronavirus cases, which directly affects how much of the drug will be available nationwide.

"That is the next phase and that's really about how well the company is able to produce it in the United States to be able to get it to patients in the next upcoming months,” Thomas said.

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