By Erika Edwards
The Food and Drug Administration has granted remdesivir emergency use authorization to treat the most severely ill COVID-19 patients.
The FDA action specifies the drug may be used for both adults and children with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses who are severely ill with low blood oxygen levels or who may be on a ventilator.
“Given there are no adequate, approved, or available alternative treatments, the known and potential benefits to treat this serious or life-threatening virus currently outweigh the known and potential risks of the drug’s use,” the FDA wrote in a press release.
The announcement came Friday during an Oval Office meeting between President Donald Trump, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, as well as the CEO of Gilead Sciences, the company that developed remdesivir.
The FDA’s decision expands doctors’ ability to use remdesivir on the most severe cases. Previously, physicians were limited to trying the drug in clinical trials or in what’s called compassionate use for patients who have no other treatment options.
The FDA’s emergency use authorization increases access by allowing any doctor “to prescribe remdesivir for their patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explained.
However, that does not mean the drug should be used for all hospitalized patients.
“Ongoing clinical trials will define which patients will best benefit from remdesivir treatment,” Schaffner wrote in an email.
The FDA wrote that possible side effects include, “increased levels of liver enzymes, which may be a sign of inflammation or damage to cells in the liver; and infusion-related reactions, which may include low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and shivering.”