Gov’t to acquire 800 dosages of experimental COVID-19 drug
The Ministry of Health and Wellness, through the National Health Fund, will be spending $13 million to secure 800 dosages of the experimental Remdesivir drug used in the management of COVID-19 by next Wednesday, Dr Christopher Tufton has revealed.
According to the minister, the drugs will be administered under strict conditions, and permission must be given for its use by a patient’s next of kin.
The ministry has reviewed its position and will make the drug available to health professionals in the government sector after increasing calls for it to be made available to help manage the local COVID-19 outbreak.
Remdesivir is the generic name for the drug sold under the brand name Veklury and is administered via injection into the vein to patients in intensive care and who present with the worst effects of COVID-19. It was one of a combination of treatments given to now-recovered US President Donald Trump when he was being treated for COVID-19 earlier this month.
The drug was previously being sourced by local hospital pharmacies from overseas merchants on a per-prescription basis, but sourcing it privately, according to the Jamaica Pharmaceutical Society (JPS), may take two to three days to reach patients, and as a result, it wanted the Government to stock dosages.
The JPS and the Jamaica Association of Private Pharmacy Owners (JAPPO) have called on the Government to make it more widely available for the management of the virus.
The JPS said there is need for sufficient medicine to be dispensed as quickly as needed while the JAPPO believes that it should be available in private pharmacies.
A dose of the drug costs an average of between US$390 (J$55,000) and US$520 (J$100,000), but Tufton said the Government would be funding the drug for patients.
“We won’t charge if it’s in our system,” the health minister said.
A Miami-based hospital physician said, “The average is five days for normal course, but 10 days of Remdesivir if the person is on a ventilator.”
University Hospital of the West Indies Medical Chief of Staff Dr Carl Bruce said the loading dose for Remdesivir treatment is “200mg in day one and 100mg daily for up to nine additional days”.
The ministry has stressed that consent is needed and that all adverse effects from the use of the drug be reported.
“Informed consent must be sought ... [and] inventory control systems to be put in place at the facilities to ensure that records of the dispensed product and patients information are maintained – similar to that used for controlled substances and that serious and adverse events must be tracked and reported ... ,” the health ministry said.