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Congressman and Top San Antonio Doctor Warn COVID-19 Drug Running in Short Supply 

click to enlarge A surgical nurse prepares a COVID-19 patient for a procedure in an intensive care unit. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / US NAVY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 2ND CLASS SARA ESHLEMAN
  • Wikimedia Commons / US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman
  • A surgical nurse prepares a COVID-19 patient for a procedure in an intensive care unit.
San Antonio hospitals are being forced to ration the drug remdesivir, used to quicken the recovery of COVID-19 patients, because of a slipping national supply, a doctor at UT Health San Antonio warned Tuesday.

On a Tuesday conference call, Dr. Tom Patterson, chief of infectious diseases at UT Health San Antonio's Long School of Medicine, and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, said at least 38 hospitals in 12 states have reported shortages of the drug since July.

Doctors and medical researchers on the call pointed to a recent Public Citizen report detailing ways the Trump Administration contributed to the shortage by bungling distribution of the drug and refusing to purchase it from any other supplier than drug company Gilead Sciences Inc.

"We had admitted about 1,000 patients at [University Hospital], and in that setting we received enough remdesivir to treat less than a third of the admitted patients," said UT Health's Patterson, a leading researcher in clinical trials of the drug. "So, a really woefully inadequate supply."

UT Health was forced to limit use of remdesivir to patients that studies suggested would likely see the most benefit, Patterson said. However, he added, all of the patents probably would have seen some benefit from the drug, which has been shown to quicken recovery time by several days and keep patients out of the ICU.

click to enlarge President Donald Trump meets with Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day in the Oval Office in May. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / THE WHITE HOUSE
  • Wikimedia Commons / The White House
  • President Donald Trump meets with Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day in the Oval Office in May.
The federal government has spent more than $10 billion on the program to distribute remdesivir, but hasn't placed any meaningful restraint on the prices Gilead can charge, according to Doggett's office.

He urged the federal government to use a century-old legal power to mandate certain manufacturing requirements so it can increase distribution of the drug and block monopoly pricing.

"We have some challenges that the Trump administration, through its denial, delay and ongoing deception, has consistently aggravated," said Doggett, who heads the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. "What we really need is a genuine law-and-order president — a president who will use the laws that are available to him to protect public safety and health in this case and stop creating chaos and permitting chaos."

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