Remdesivir availability: Physicians, Democratic lawmakers question White House on drug distribution

May 8, 2020

After hospitals treating many COVID-19 patients don't recieve any remdesivir, physicians and lawmakers are asking the White House for transparency.

Physicians - and now Democratic lawmakers - have asked the White House to explain how the federal government is distributing remdesivir to hospitals looking to use it to treat COVID-19 patients.

Earlier this week, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization to Gilead Sciences, Inc., for the drug to be used for COVID-19 patients. The drug was found to shorten the time of recovery for COVID-19 in a limited clinical trial. The trial was conducted by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, but no detailed results have been released yet. Gilead's CEO announced in April that the company was donating its entire supply of the drug, 1.5 million individual doses, to help alleviate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attention has now turned to the Trump administration, and physicians have major questions about how the federal government is deciding which hospitals get the drug. According to an May 7 article published by Politico, physicians on the frontline have expressed frustration and asked questions about how the drug is getting to the hospitals that need it most.

For example, Boston Medical Center had recieved no remdesivir as of Wednesday, and that hospital has the highest COVID-19 case count in Boston, according to Politico's reporting.

Now, three Democratic lawmakers from Massachusetts - Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley - have written an open letter to Vice President Mike Pence and HHS Secretary Alex Azar asking for an explanation about how the drug is being distributed.

“The federal government must ensure that the distribution of COVID-19 therapies such as remdesivir, or future vaccines, is transparent and orderly, and that these treatments reach highly impacted areas that are in need of these critical resources the most,” the lawmakers wrote.  “Congress and the public need to know whether HHS is making its distribution decisions in backroom deals or is relying on data and evidence to ensure that potentially life-saving drugs reach the patients who need them.”