Georgia to ship anti-viral drug to hospitals to fight coronavirus

In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, rubber stoppers are placed onto filled vials of the investigational drug remdesivir at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. Given through an IV, the medication is designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material. GILEAD SCIENCES VIA AP
In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, rubber stoppers are placed onto filled vials of the investigational drug remdesivir at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. Given through an IV, the medication is designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material. GILEAD SCIENCES VIA AP

The Georgia Department of Public Health said Saturday it is distributing the first of two allotments of a promising anti-viral drug to eight hospitals across the state to help patients suffering from severe symptoms of COVID-19.

In a news release, DPH said the distribution of remdesivir is based on need and U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, and all eight hospitals have at least 10 positive patients on ventilators or other breathing assistance.

“DPH is pleased to have the opportunity to share this promising treatment with hospitals on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19,” DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said in the release. “While this drug is not a cure for COVID-19, getting it into the hospitals and improving patient outcomes is moving in the right direction.”

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of Georgia Department of Public Health, speaks as Governor Brian Kemp looks during a press briefing to update on COVID-19 at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of Georgia Department of Public Health, speaks as Governor Brian Kemp looks during a press briefing to update on COVID-19 at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM

The first allotment of the drug will treat about 110 patients, the state said. The hospitals receiving the medicine are: Tift Regional Medical Center, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Grady Health System, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown and Augusta University Medical Center.

Remdesivir is produced by Gilead Sciences. The drug was initially developed as a treatment for the Ebola virus and clinical trials have showed promise against the novel coronavirus.

Emory conducted a trial of the drug in recent weeks, and the medication was granted an emergency use authorization by the FDA. But it has not gained full approval.

The state has received a second allotment, which the release said is much larger. That distribution, which is still being planned, will happen in the coming days.