Officials distributing experimental COVID-19 drug to Georgia hospitals

Georgia health officials are distributing an experimental drug that studies have shown works against the new coronavirus to hospitals across the state.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said that they will be distributing the state's initial allotment of the drug remdesivir to eight hospitals on Saturday.

According to officials, the state received 30 cases of 40 vials of the drug each from the federal government. That's enough to treat around 110 patients, depending on the amount and duration of treatment needed.

Officials say the distribution plan, which was developed by the Georgia Department of Health according to FDA guidelines, will focus on hospitals who reported 10 or more COVID-19 patients who are on ventilators or who are being treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a machine that takes over the work of the heart and lungs.

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Vials of the drug Remdesivir lie during a press conference about the start of a study with the Ebola drug in severely ill patients. (ULRICH PERREY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

As of Saturday, the hospitals Tift Regional Medical Center, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Grady Health System, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, and Augusta University Medical Center will be receiving the drug.

The drug is an antiviral medicine originally developed to fight Ebola that will be used to treat patients hospitalized with serious COVID-19 symptoms, like low oxygen levels or pneumonia.

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In a study of over 1,000 patients sick enough to be hospitalized, the drug, created by Gilead Sciences, reduced recovery time by 31% — 11 days on average versus 15 days for those just given usual care, officials said. The drug also might be reducing deaths, although that’s not certain from the partial results revealed so far.

“DPH is pleased to have the opportunity to share this promising treatment with hospitals on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19,” Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey. “While this drug is not a cure for COVID-19, getting it into the hospitals and improving patient outcomes is moving in the right direction.”

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Georgia has already received a second, larger allotment of the drug, which officials say will be distributed next week after a survey of hospitals to determine needs statewide.

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