Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg asked the U.S. Department of Human Services to take over distribution of the antiviral drug.
SAN ANTONIO — In an urgent letter Thursday, San Antonio leaders implored the federal government to take over distribution of a potent antiviral treatment for COVID-19.
“Remdesivir is now FDA-approved and no longer being distributed free of charge by the federal government, thus limiting access for community infusion centers,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg wrote to Xavier Becerra, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary.
In 2020, the federal government managed remdesivir’s production and distribution. For a time, it was the only antiviral doctors could offer sick patients.
When other COVID-19 treatments became available, demand eased for the antiviral and the feds turned over control of the drug to its maker.
Now, omicron has rendered most monoclonal antibody treatments useless. New antiviral pills are not yet widely available.
“Given the current surge of the highly transmissible omicron variant and the shortage of evidenced-based therapeutic products, improving outpatient remdesivir access has the potential to improve patient care, as well as reduce hospitalizations and deaths,” the letter reads.
To account for the shortage, the National Institutes of Health changed its recommendation for remdesivir’s usage on Dec. 30. The drug was previously reserved for hospitalized COVID-19 patients who did not yet need a ventilator.
Now, the NIH recommends remdesivir for high-risk COVID-19 patients who are not hospitalized. The drug, delivered via IV, is administered over the course of three days.
“Remdesivir – think of it like TamiFlu,” Dr. Duane Hospenthal, Baptist Health Systems’s lead infectious disease physician, told KENS 5 in August. “It’s not that it’s going to cure the COVID, but, if given at the right time, it may decrease the viral load enough to give you a benefit that allows your immune system to get you through.”