Published October 26, 2020
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Remdesivir, an antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19, was granted approval by the Food and Drug Administration on October 22.
The drug was given emergency use authorization by the FDA in May, which allowed hospitals and doctors to administer the drug to COVID-19 patients despite not being FDA approved. Remdesivir is now the only FDA-approved drug for the treatment of COVID-19, which had killed more than one million people around the world including some 220,000 Americans before Oct. 22.
The FDA approval comes with the caveat that patients must be at least 12 years of age, weigh at least 88 pounds and require hospitalization for COVID-19.
The intravenous drug is developed by drug maker Gilead and goes by the brand name Veklury.
Numerous studies have shown remdesivir to shorten the recovery time of some COVID-19 patients, though the World Health Organization concluded that the drug has little to no effect on a patient’s survival and is not a cure for the coronavirus.
President Donald Trump was given remdesivir as part of his COVID-19 treatment in early October.
Remdesivir can only be administered by a doctor to a hospital inpatient. As such, it is covered by Medicare Part A and included in the cost of the hospital stay. Medicare Part A beneficiaries are responsible for a hospital deductible of $1,408 per benefit period in 2020.
Medicare’s hospital reimbursement for remdesivir is $2,340 for a five-day course, compared to reimbursement of $3,120 for private insurance for a five-day course. Many health insurance companies waived patient cost-sharing requirements for the drug.
Remdesivir was found in clinical trials to reduce the length of hospital stays from 15 days for patients who received a placebo to 10 days for those who were given remdesivir, and symptoms lingered longer in the patients who did not receive the drug.
Possible side effects of remdesivir include increased levels of liver enzymes, allergic reactions, low blood oxygen level, fever, shortness of breath, wheezing, swelling, rash, nausea, sweating and shivering.