State, hospitals mum on COVID-19 treatment drug distributed to county
More than 6,700 vials of experimental drug remdesivir distributed in Maryland
An experimental drug is being used to treat coronavirus patients in Montgomery County. But representatives of the state and local hospitals won’t say how much of the drug remdesivir was distributed to the hospitals in the county.
On May 22, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that hospitals across the state received more than 6,700 vials of remdesivir to treat patients with the virus.
Amy Goodwin, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Hospital Association, told Bethesda Beat in an email on Thursday that hospitals across the state began receiving the investigational antiviral drug starting on May 15.
Gilead Sciences, Inc., the maker of remdesivir, donated around 607,000 vials of the drug to the United States. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) distributed the vials to states.
“HHS has indicated that once the initial donation from Gilead is allocated, no additional shipments are expected until the end of August at the earliest,” Goodwin wrote in an email. “Future shipments to states, including Maryland, will be determined by the federal government.”
Goodwin did not respond to a follow-up request asking for specific information about remedsivir doses that went to Montgomery County
On May 1, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized remdesivir for emergency use.
“While there is limited information known about the safety and effectiveness of using remdesivir to treat people in the hospital with COVID-19, the investigational drug was shown in a clinical trial to shorten the time of recovery in some patients,” according to a May 1 press release from the FDA.
The drug is only approved for use on COVID-19 patients with low blood oxygen levels, or those in need of oxygen therapy or more intensive breathing support, such as a ventilator.
The FDA said that the known and potential benefits to treat the virus “currently outweigh the known and potential risks of the drug’s use.”
Charlie Gischlar, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Health, told Bethesda Beat on Tuesday that the state distributed the drug to hospitals statewide, based on an allocation plan.
“All Montgomery County hospitals received an allotment, but exact quantities are not being released at this time,” he wrote in an email.
On Wednesday, Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, said he did not know how many vials of remdesivir were distributed to the hospitals because they did not come through the county’s health department.
Hospitals in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties were given shipments because the areas have the state’s two highest volume of cases and deaths from the virus.
“From my understanding, the criteria that have been most frequently used across the board — and this isn’t specific to facility — is that it has been most effective in individuals who have [had] more severe cases ,” Gayles said. “It has cut down, on average, four to five days of the convalescent period for those individuals.”
For some, it has cut the expected recovery period from 15 days to 10 or 11 days, he said.
Taylor Kelley, a spokeswoman for Adventist HealthCare, wrote in an email on Tuesday that Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville and White Oak Medical Center in Silver Spring received a “small supply” of remdesivir from the state health department.
“We are expecting more this summer, though we recognize there may be delays in shipments,” she said.
When asked how many vials of the drug were provided to Adventist, Kelley referred Bethesda Beat to the Maryland Hospital Association.
Marianne Worley, a spokeswoman for MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney, also referred a reporter to the association.
Kristin Feliciano, a spokeswoman for Holy Cross Hospitals in Silver Spring and Germantown, told Bethesda Beat on Tuesday that the hospitals participated in an early trial of the drug with Kaiser Permanente.
She confirmed that Holy Cross received multiple small shipments of remdesivir from the state.
Amy Shaw, a spokeswoman for Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, did not provide responses to questions sent to her on Tuesday.
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.