Experimental drug to treat COVID-19 could soon be available in Baton Rouge area

Experimental drug to treat COVID-19 could soon be available in Baton Rouge area

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - When Governor John Bel Edwards was in the Oval Office Wednesday, April 29 meeting with President Donald Trump, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he’s optimistic about a new anti-viral drug which could treat COVID-19.

That drug may also soon be available in the Baton Rouge area.

The drug is called remdesivir and is produced by Gilead Sciences, Inc.

The antiviral drug supposedly shortens the time it takes for people who are really sick from COVID-19 to recover from the infection.

“We think it’s really opening the door to the fact that we now have the capability of treating,” said Dr. Fauci.

While the governor and president met to discuss Louisiana’s response to the pandemic, Dr. Fauci announced the results of a study with more than 1,000 coronavirus patients treated with either remdesivir or a placebo.

“If you look at the time to recovery being shorter in the remdesivir realm, it was 11 days compared to 15 days," Dr. Fauci said. “The mortality rate trended towards being better in the sense of less deaths in the remdesivir group.”

ONE-STOP-SHOP: Everything you need to know related to COVID-19

Now, this isn’t a vaccine; one hasn’t been created yet. But the drug, which is administered as a daily IV for ten days, is a sign of hope for those seriously ill with COVID-19.

“This drug [remdesivir] inhibits the virus from replicating, so it makes it stop replicating, it makes it not able to copy itself very efficiently, and so it can really slow the virus down that way,” said Dr. Hollis O’Neal, medical director of research at Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge.

Dr. O’Neal says while the results have been positive, the drug has not been approved yet. But the FDA will likely issue an emergency authorization for the drug.

Remdesivir should be coming to Baton Rouge.

“The company will open what they call ‘expanded access programs’ that will allow a certain number of patients to have access to the drug that wouldn’t otherwise have had access because it’s not on the open market yet, and so in the last couple of days, we just received word that we were going to get access to the extended access program for approximately ten patients, and we expect that to come in next week,” said Dr. O’Neal.

“Do you believe that this drug could save lives?” questioned WAFB’s Lester Duhé.

“That’s a tricky question. I think it can get people out of the hospital faster. I think it can help them recover,I think it [remdesivir] has the potential for saving lives if we use it in enough people and use it in the right population,” Dr. O’Neal responded.

It’s a small glimmer of hope in these trying times.

While the drug may be available on the open market soon, Dr. O’Neal says an exact time frame is still up in the air. Right now, for the OLOL trial, it’s only for patients of that hospital.

Click here to report a typo.

Copyright 2020 WAFB. All rights reserved.