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U.S. supply of remdesivir could run out within weeks, top official warns

Race for a COVID-19 vaccine
Race for a COVID-19 vaccine 01:58

Washington — The federal government's supply of remdesivir, an FDA-authorized drug that was found to  lessen the recovery time for patients hospitalized with the coronavirus, could be tapped out by the end of June, a top official from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) warned.

Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the federal health agency, told CNN that the administration's last shipment of remdesivir, manufactured by Gilead Sciences, will be sent the week of June 29.

"Right now we're waiting to hear from Gilead what is their expected delivery availability of the drug as we go from June to July," Kadlec said. "We're kind of not in negotiations but in discussions with Gilead as they project what the availability of their product will be."

Kadlec told CNN the federal government has been assisting Gilead "with some of the supply chain challenges in terms of raw materials and being able to accelerate the process," but warned that "whatever the supply may be, there may not be enough for everyone who may need it."

The Food and Drug Administration authorized remdesivir, an antiviral drug, for emergency use in treating coronavirus patients in early May. The drug is administered via an IV through either a five-day treatment course or 10-day treatment course depending on the patient.

A study led by the National Institutes of Health found remdesivir shortened the recovery time for some coronavirus patients by four days.

Gilead said that while the typical timeline for manufacturing a drug like remdesivir is nine to 12 months, the company has shaved weeks off that period, to six to eight months. The drug maker said its goal was to produce more than 140,000 treatment courses by the end of May, more than 500,000 treatment courses by October and more than 1 million by December.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, which Kadlec oversees, said that as of May 29, the Trump administration had allocated all of the original amount of remdesivir donated by Gilead. The drug is expected to be distributed to hospitals the weeks of June 15 and June 29.

According to the Trump administration, it has distributed 14,907 cases of remdesivir, which contain 40 vials of the drug apiece, to states in a five-week span. Gilead has donated a total of 940,000 vials of the drug, which is enough to treat more than 120,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

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