Hospitals frustrated with limited remdesivir to treat virus

(CNN) - Remdesivir is the only drug that's been shown in a large, rigorous study to fight COVID-19.

U.S. hospitals have been frustrated with the limited supply of remdesivir, the first drug to show some success in treating COVID-19. (Source: CNN)

Given limited supplies, the federal government has been doling it out, with some hospitals getting less than they need and others getting none.

"New York state is working with HHS, Health and Human Services on the federal side, administering to 2,900 people at 15 hospitals," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

There are about 7,262 coronavirus patients in New York hospitals. The situation of more patients than treatments is playing out around the country.

"We know that the doses of this drug that we are going to get are not going to be enough to treat every patient that we have in the hospital now," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

At Mass General, they have about 200 patients with the virus and enough remdesivir for 65. More patients are being admitted every day, and doctors don't know when they'll get more of the drug.

Mass General's decision was to form a hospital committee. It, not the patient's doctor, will decide who gets it.

Walensky said it was not how they like to practice medicine, but it's the most equitable way to do it.

"It's nearly an impossible situation to be in medicine when you think that there's something you could and should be doing for somebody, and you don't have it to give," she said.

The federal government has not explained how they decided which hospitals would receive remdesivir and how much.

"This drug is promising, and we want to get it to the American people and the areas that need it most," said Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary.

The federal government said Saturday that in addition to sending remdesivir to hospitals, they’d also send it to some state health departments. They intend eventually to send it to all state health departments.

But they haven't said how much they'll send to each state, or their formula for determining those amounts.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, runs the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee and has been following the remdesivir rollout.

“This administration doesn’t believe in transparency, but healthcare providers need to know about this,” Doggett said.

Now, doctors are trying to do their best to allocate this scarce resource.

Another issue is doctors want to know which coronavirus patients this drug works for best.

It has been studied, but the federal government still hasn't published that study, so doctors have no data.

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