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Shortage of possible coronavirus treatment puts others at risk

Coronavirus outbreak leads to drug shortage
Increase in demand for drugs to treat coronavirus leads to shortages 02:05

Los Angeles — There has been a rush on medications, such as remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine, that many hope can treat coronavirus. That means those drugs are now in short supply. Patients who count on them to treat other conditions may not have access.

Struggling to speak in between bad coughs, Brooklyn Dr. Jinesh Patel is a coronavirus patient. The drugs that helped his recovery are now in short supply.

"It feels so helpless," Patel told CBS News. "So I really urge Gilead and Roche who make these drugs to look into ways to make it easily available and make it available in time so it can be used before it is too late."

Some drugs like remdesivir, have shown promise. But New York City Dr. Jesse Greenberg, who is now in the intensive care unit, can't get it. When asked what the next step is if you don't get this medication, Dr. Greenberg said, "I don't know."

And with hospitals filling up fast, California-based Gilead Sciences, which makes remedisivir, reports "an exponential in compassionate use requests. This has flooded an emergency treatment access system ... and never intended for use in response to a pandemic."

Gilead said the overwhelming demand forced them to put remdesivir on hold for compassionate use.

Another drug, hydroxychloroquine, has shown promise with coronavirus. But lupus patients who depend on the drugs are now seeing dangerous shortages.

"If people without symptoms are hoarding this medication it means many lives may potentially be lost," Patel said.

But help could soon be on the way. The Federal Food and Drug Administration is allowing more testing. On Tuesday, the state of New York will start clinical trials of two drugs. Those on the front lines who need help themselves say it can't happen fast enough.

"I'm pleading: How can this drug be made available to those who are in need before it is too late for them to survive," Patel said.

The fact that doctors are having a hard time getting these medications when they're sick shows just how critical the situation is. Because they can't help anyone else, until they get better, themselves.

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