Watch CBS News

Sold Out: Remdesivir Used To Treat COVID-19 Not Widely Available

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As COVID-19-related deaths rise in states like Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, it's leaving some doctors in other states feeling helpless.

And it has to do with supplies of a potentially life-saving drug: remdesivir.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reports from Northwestern Memorial Hospital on the supply and demand concern.

CBS 2 has spoken with several local hospitals, including Northwestern, that are interested in donating some of their surplus remdesivir to hospitals in states with soaring infections. But we're learning that the process is anything but simple.

Right now, it's the only drug authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19. But when it comes to remdesivir supplies, some hospitals in states with a surging numbers of cases are:

"Completely out. There are hospitals including large healthcare systems in Florida, Texas and Arizona that have been reported to be out of the medication," said Doctor Michael Ison of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Which means patients in their hospitals don't have access to it."

He's an infectious disease specialist and he's been left frustrated by a lack of transparency when it comes to how the drug is distributed. And because it's federally controlled, he can't just ship his surplus medicine to other states in need.

"We would all love to be able to help, especially since thankfully cases are relatively low here in Illinois," Ison said.

About 1,000 miles away at University of Massachusetts Medical School, Doctor Nicole Theodoropoulos said right now, they have medicine to spare as well.

"It seems to be quite random," Theodoropouos said. "It's lightly frustrating when you know that there is drug in some places and we can't just distribute it to those that need it."

A U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson told the CBS 2 Investigators they suggest hospitals first contact their state health department to reallocate product. Then the state would have to work HHS to transfer it across state lines.

The 3,248 cases distributed nationwide between July 10 and July 19 will focus on those states with recent spikes. Both doctors Ison Theodoropoulos worry that the current process takes too much time.

"That's great when the drug arrives," Ison said. " But there are hospital today where patients with COVID-19 are being admitted that aren't being given access to hits drug, solely because they made the decision to go to a hospital that's out."

CBS 2 reached out to more than a dozen local health systems to ask about their remdesivir supplies. All of the hospitals that responded said they had an adequate supply. AMITA Health was able to ship out seven cases of remdesivir to hospitals in Florida, but that was only an option for them because those hospitals were part of the same health network here in Illinois.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.