PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s sending out 20,000 more vials of a lifesaving drug to Florida hospitals.
Remdesivir has been in short supply nationwide, but Governor DeSantis says he is working directly with the White House to ensure supplies are sent to the sunshine state as we deal with a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
It comes as Pinellas County leaders make a desperate plea to the state to secure Remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients.
The antiviral medication has been proven to be effective in lessening the impacts of the virus and even shortening hospital stays.
AdventHealth, one of the larger hospital systems in Tampa Bay, says patients who received the drug in May, June and July stayed in the hospital on average two and a half days less than COVID-19 patients that did not receive the treatment in March and April.
Dr. Nishant Anand, the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at BayCare, tells ABC Action News he has seen positive results from the drug as well.
“It’s been able to really shorten some of our patient’s symptoms. Someone who looked like they were really going to take a turn for the worst, we’ve been able to see them dramatically improve and sometimes be wheeled out of the hospital," he said.
Yet, Anand says getting vials of the medicine can be difficult.
BayCare and AdventHealth both tell ABC Action News they’ve been able to secure recent shipments of the critical drug and feel that they have adequate supplies to treat patients. However, they say having more vials of Remdesivir would allow a wider range of patients to be treated and could potentially help to free up ICU beds.
Pinellas County Commission Chair Pat Gerard sent a letter to the Governor’s Office Monday pleading for the drug to be sent to local hospitals.
“We’re hoping that we can at least get a bit of supply on hand so they don’t have to scrounge for every dose,” she explained. “If you’re in the hospital waiting for a dose of this and we don’t have it, you’re in big trouble because there are very few alternatives.”
In Pinellas County, Gerard says 65% of COVID-19 deaths have happened over the past four weeks and because Pinellas County’s population is older, she worries more lives could be on the line.
“We know that there are requests from all over the state and we’re not even the highest count of cases but we do have the oldest population in the state that’s having a spike right now,” she added.
Gerard says Pinellas County’s population is on average 12 years older than Hillsborough County’s. Pinellas County also has hundreds of nursing homes.
“It’s very scary. Fortunately this week things are getting a little better I think and the ICU beds are opening a bit but our local hospital leaders are telling us once someone gets in the hospital they could be there for weeks and weeks,” she said with concern.
Governor DeSantis says he’s been able to secure a total of 3,000 cases of Remdesivir, which equates to 100,000 vials statewide, but he’s working with national leaders to get the largest quantity possible.
“It really does make a difference and if we continue to generate positive outcomes, that’s going to save lives,” DeSantis said Tuesday at a press conference in Orlando.