By Lucia Leal
Washington, May 3 (efe-epa).- The United States is planning within the coming days to begin treating some of the patients most seriously ill with Covid-19 with the antiviral medication Remdesivir, the maker of the drug said Sunday as tensions continued to brew across the US over the unequal speeds of economic reopening being pursued by different states.
The medication, recently given fast-track approval for use in the US, could be administered apart from clinical trials as early as Monday to the first coronavirus patients, while manufacturer Gilead is making plans to export it to other nations who give it the green light.
“We are now firmly focused on getting this medicine to the most urgent patients,” Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day told CBS News. “We intend to get that to patients in the early part of this next week, beginning to work with the government, which will determine which cities are most vulnerable and where the patients are that need this medicine.”
The California-based Gilead has its “entire supply” of 1.5 million doses of Remdesivir, which could be used to treat “100,000 to 200,000” patients, depending on their various conditions over the next “five or 10 days,” O’Day said.
Gilead has accelerated its production of the antiviral and last week said that it was confident it would have “several million” doses available by the end of this year, a supply that could be used for patients in this country and others.
“We’ve donated the entire supply … because we acknowledge and recognize the human suffering … and want to make sure nothing gets in the way of this getting to patients,” said O’Day.
The Gilead CEO was apparently referring to the initial supply of 1.5 million doses that the firm donated to the US government, but the White House has not yet commented on the possibility that the company might export part of that amount.
The development of Remdesivir, which is administered intravenously, was begun in 2009 and was used in Ebola patients during the 2000s via an “emergency authorization” by the Food and Drug Administration.
The experimental therapy will be reserved for patients who are gravely ill, which the FDA defines as needing assistance to breathe, and its distribution will be decided upon by the federal government based on criteria such as the number of beds in intensive care units, O’Day said.
He added that the firm will begin shipping tens of thousands of doses at the beginning of this week and will adjust deliveries depending on how the epidemic evolves in various US cities.
Although some experts warn that there is still no guarantee about the safety of the drug or its efficacy in combating the coronavirus, indications in clinical trials are that it can cut the duration of the illness, and thus it has cast a ray of hope into the heretofore dark forecasts for the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, given that so-called “herd immunity” to the disease does not yet exist and many people who become infected become very seriously ill and some 2 percent or more die.
According to the unofficial tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University, 1,143,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been detected in the US as of Sunday and about 67,000 people have died.
Meanwhile, about 15 states are taking stock of the measures they have implemented to limit the spread of the virus with an eye toward easing some of those restrictions and gradually reopening their economies.
In some states, like Texas and Georgia, the first days of partial reopening have coincided with increases in the number of new confirmed virus cases and deaths, while in others authorities had to confront people who gathered in the streets and other public places, often without wearing facemasks.
New Jersey Gov. Philip Murphy told Fox News that people have been cooped up indoors for many weeks and are impatient for things to get back to “normal.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, who heads the White House coronavirus team, told that network that it would be “devastatingly worrisome” to see other people turn out like the demonstrators who congregated at the Michigan state capitol building to protest the quarantine measures last week because they could spread the virus.
Meanwhile, the Donald Trump administration continued to pursue its pressure campaign against China with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that the government has “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus originated in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic erupted, although Beijing denies that claim.
“There is significant evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan,” Pompeo told ABC News, going on to suggest that it was man-made, saying that “the best experts so far seem to think it was man-made. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point,” although he cited no evidence to back up that statement.