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FDA approves expanded use of remdesivir to treat COVID-19

IU Health Methodist is among the Indiana hospitals planning to expand its use of remdesivir to treat COVID-19.
Credit: Bernard Chantal - stock.adobe.com
Remdesivir drug and syringe on black table with reflections and stainless background.

INDIANAPOLIS — IU Health Methodist is among the Indiana hospitals planning to expand its use of remedsivir to treat COVID-19. It's the same drug doctors used to treat President Trump.

That's after the FDA approved the drug to treat hospitalized patients 12 and older with moderate symptoms. Before the drug was approved for emergency use only, or the most severe cases.

Bob Ferguson was one of those cases. He spent 10 days at IU Health Methodist in late April, six of those in the ICU.

"I was getting sicker and sicker," Ferguson said.

He was among the first at the hospital to get remdesivir.  

"After two days, I turned around. I went from getting worse and worse to starting to get better," he said. "I think remdesivir did it." 

Dr. Omar Raham, who works in the ICU l at IU Health, said remdesivir can improve symptoms and shorten the length of illness in some patients by two to three days when used with other treatments.

But there's a catch. 

"It cannot be used by itself," he said. "We use dexamethasone and other steroids and oxygen therapy and just good hospitalized-based care." 

Remdesivir is an anti-viral medication developed to treat Ebola. It's given intravenously, usually five doses over five days.

Dr. Raham said it's value isn't just in shortening the recovery time of patients but turning over beds faster, especially when there's a surge in COVID-19 cases.

"ICU beds are precious, and if we're able to prevent patients from deteriorating further and getting into ICU, that's always the goal," Raham said. 

Ferguson said while he knows remdesivir is not a cure, he's certain it helped in his recovery.  

"I don't think it's like you take penicillin for a sore throat and it goes away, but I'm alive, which I'm not sure I would have been without the remdesivir," he said. "It really made a big difference to me."