Hospitals Have Trouble Getting Their Hands on Remdesivir as COVID Cases Surge

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With hospitalizations up nearly 50% across the state in the last month, hospitals in San Francisco are running out of remdesivir – the main treatment doctors are using to help COVID patients survive. 

“We’re seeing that we’re on the edge,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease specialist at UCSF. “So we’re about to fall off the cliff and I don’t know when that point will happen yet.”

He said they’ve seen three times as many COVID patients in the last month and they’re not at capacity for rooms, but they need more remdeisivir.

 “One of the hospitals in our system already hadn’t had enough, so they were asking around to see if anybody else had extras,” said Dr. Chin-Hong.

One of the problems is they can’t just go and buy it. 

The Department of Health and Human Services tells each hospital how much remdesivir they can buy based on need. He says it's currently reserved for patients who require extra oxygen or a ventilator.

 “To tell you the truth, if we had unlimited supply, personally I would probably give it to everyone,” Dr. Chin-Hong said.

 This comes as Clifornia cases passed New York’s Wednesday, even though the Golden State has twice as many people.

“In total now the highest in the nation. Not highest per capita, but nonetheless a sober reminder of why we are taking things as seriously as we are,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. 

The state is also obtaining 400 million more masks in case of a surge for healthcare workers.

The next step, doctors hope, is to get more of the critical treatment used to help patients.

“It’s pretty much a ubiquitous problem because we mirror what’s happening in the state,” Dr. Chin-Hong said.

Gilead, the company that produces remdesivir, says there's not a shortage, but getting the supply to hospitals takes time.

"The process is both resource- and time-intensive, with some individual manufacturing steps taking weeks to complete," the company website reads. "Because remdesivir is administered intravenously, production also requires sterile drug product manufacturing capabilities, which limits the number of organizations capable of manufacturing the medicine. This complex process impacts the ability to rapidly produce large quantities of drug supply in an emergency situation like the COVID-19 pandemic."

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