U.S. hospitals have turned down about a third of their allocated supplies of the COVID-19 drug remdesivir since July as need for the costly antiviral wanes, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed on Friday.
Some hospitals said they are still buying the Gilead Sciences medicine to build inventory in case the pandemic accelerates over the winter. But they said current supplies are adequate, in part because they are limiting use to severely ill patients.
The Food and Drug Administration has allowed more liberal remdesivir use, but 6 out of 8 major hospital systems contacted by Reuters said they were not using it for moderate cases.
The slowdown suggests that a shortage of the drug is over and threatens Gilead's efforts to expand use of remdesivir, which it sells under the brand name Veklury in some countries.
An HHS spokesperson confirmed on Friday that between July 6 and September 8, state and territory public health systems accepted about 72% of the remdesivir they were offered. Hospitals in turn purchased only about two-thirds of what states and territories accepted, as previously detailed to Reuters by Michael Ganio, senior director of pharmacy practice and quality at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
Gilead did not respond to a request for comment.
A surplus of remdesivir – which costs $3,120 for a 6-vial intravenous course – marks a turnaround from earlier in the pandemic, when supplies of the drug had fallen short of demand in some regions.
Government-led distribution of remdesivir will expire at the end of September. Hospitals said they have little information on availability after that.
Remdesivir was first authorized by the FDA in May for emergency use in COVID-19 patients hospitalized and on oxygen support after data showed it helped shorten hospital recovery time.