INDIANAPOLIS – This week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first treatment for COVID-19, remdesivir. It’s been in Indiana for a few months now after FEMA shipped doses to the state back in May.
The drug is approved for use in adult and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older for the treatment of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. Clinical trials have found remdesivir improved symptoms and reduced recovery time for hospitalized patients.
35-year-old Justin Foster is now recovering out of the hospital after he was admitted twice for COVID-19. Doctors gave him remdesivir when he came to the IU Health emergency room the second time.
“The first dose I had I was in the hospital. I could tell a big difference in how I felt than when I did not have the medication,” he said.
He was released on Tuesday after a 5-day stay. It is still difficult for Justin to talk over the phone without the urge to cough. His wife, Alana, is also recovering from COVID-19 at home. She tested positive earlier this month.
“You could look at him and tell he was struggling,” Alana said. “He couldn’t walk from one room to the other without losing his breath.”
About 500 patients at IU Health have received remdesivir since the spring. Initially, they used the drug for compassionate use in very few cases before the FDA even issued an emergency use authorization. Compassionate use means a doctor has nothing else to give the patient and they are in a dire situation.
“At IU Health, we have had good outcomes for our patients in general,” said Dr. Lana Dbeibo, an infectious disease physician at IU Health.
Indiana has continued to receive ongoing allocations from the federal government. The state still assesses individual facility needs based on patient populations and COVID-19 admissions and allocates appropriately.
“Moving forward I think there will be more comfort for patients to know this drug has been fully studied,” said Dr. Dbeibo.
She said the hospital network needs to study remdesivir to determine how well it has worked for IU Health patients. Dr. Dbeibo explained physicians will continue to follow the data.
“We know remdesivir right now is FDA approved but we know it is not the cure for COVID. It shortens the duration of symptoms and hospitalization, which is a great outcome. But the effect on mortality or what drugs effect mortality is still in the works,” she said.”
While IU Health studies its effectiveness, the Fosters are firm believers in it.
“It seems to have definitely gotten him over that hump and turn that corner,” said Alana.