Remdesivir can save more lives when used strategically in places in which intensive care units (ICUs) are overwhelmed from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases. 

Recent research suggests that remdesivir can reduce COVID-19 deaths by as much as 30%. There has been more than 11 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than a half-million deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization. 

Additionally, studies suggest remdesivir can reduce how long patients need intensive care by shortening an average 15-day ICU stay to an average of 11 days. Currently, the United States has bought up virtually the entire global supply of remdesivir, according to the press release.  

A new study by Boston University used a South African National COVID-19 Epidemiology model to examine the estimated 3- to 6-month period in which cases will exceed the country’s 3450 available ICU beds. According to the press release, researchers believe that patients treated in ICUs from June to December will increase between 23,443 and 32,284 patients, and 36,383 and 47,820 patients.  

Researchers found that remdesivir’s ability to shorten ICU stays could increase the number of patients treated in South Africa’s ICUs by more 50%, saving as many as 6862 lives per month during the country’s peak in cases. According to the press release, this could prevent as many as 13,657 deaths in South Africa from COVID-19 by December. 

"There are many countries with limited ICU capacity that could benefit from this double impact on mortality…Why would you use a drug—that has limited availability—to save 1 life when that same drug could be used to save 2 lives," lead author and assistant professor of Global Health at Boston University’s School of Public Health, Brooke Nichols, PhD, MSc, said in the press release. 

Nichols said that she is concerned by the news that United States has bought up the remdesivir supply, especially if the government does not ensure that priority goes to overwhelmed US locations. According to the press release, remdesivir could have double the impact if used in virus hot spots. 

Reference
Remdesivir can save more lives where ICUs are overwhelmed: BU study (Press Release); Boston, MA, July 7, 2020, EurekAlert!, accessed July 8, 2020