White House says Birx to handle virus drug after supply question
The White House will have Deborah Birx, a member of the coronavirus task force, help oversee distribution of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Covid-19 drug following questions about the opaque process for getting the therapy to U.S hospitals.
“She is going to be working and consulting as to where this drug should go,” White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said at a briefing Friday. “She really has the best grasp as to how that should be distributed.”
Doctors on the front line of the outbreak have expressed frustration at not being able to get the medication as well as how distribution decisions are being made.
Pharmacy staff at the University of California, San Francisco, built their own system to try to figure out where the intravenous infusion is currently available. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF, said the group believes 25 hospitals have been authorized to receive the drug. Others, even some in areas hit hard by the disease, haven’t been getting allocations, Chin-Hong said.
“It’s been hard to know why some places are getting things and some places aren’t,” Chin-Hong said. “Speed is an issue. Every day you wait in a pandemic, you lose lives.”
Gilead manufactures the drug, and distribution logistics are being handled by wholesaler AmerisourceBergen Corp. Which hospitals get supplies of the drug is decided by the federal government. So far, the administration hasn’t said publicly what the exact criteria or data are to make those decisions.
Gilead, which has said it will donate supplies of the drug to the government, declined to comment. In a statement, AmerisourceBergen said that “hospitals with intensive care units and other hospitals that the U.S. government deems most in need will receive priority in the distribution of donated remdesivir,” and that “the U.S. government will coordinate the distribution of remdesivir to regions most heavily impacted by COVID-19.”
The company referred further questions to the federal government. Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services didn’t respond to emails and telephone calls asking for comment.