Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ4) has asked The White House to approve treating suspected COVID-19 patients with approved “compassionate use” drug therapies prior to the COVID-19 test results being confirmed.
Rep Smith shared an email he sent to Ambassador Deborah Birx, MD, the Coordinator of The White House Coronavirus Task Force, exclusively with MMM:
Dear Dr. Birx:
I urgently write to ask whether new guidance can be issued to permit a physician to administer remdesivir without confirmation of infection by a test. (I sent a similar request to Joe Grogan)
Seven members of one family in my district were hospitalized with COVID 19.
· 19 family members were tested. On behalf of the family, my staff and I contacted Quest (I know Quest CEO Steve Rusckowski) to speed up the results which had hindered treatment as well as how family members should isolate. Quest responded almost immediately.
· The top docs at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold NJ, told me they couldn’t administer remdesvir without confirmation of the virus.
· On the 2 PM White House teleconference, I asked Dr. Hilary Marston of NIAID about this. She said that “confirmation of infection is required.”
· One of the hospitalized family members has awaited confirmation by the test so she could receive remdesivir.
How many other seriously ill patients have been refused remdesivir because of delays in confirming the virus?
Can new guidance be issued to permit a doctor to give remdesivir—absent test results confirming COVID 19—to a patient who manifests symptoms that comport with COVID 19?
Not sure who makes this call. Please ask Dr. Fauci—or anyone else on the team—to address this. I was in the que when he spoke by teleconference yesterday but he had to return to his duties before my opportunity to ask him about this,.
Meanwhile, earlier today, the FEMA drive-in test venue in Bergen County reached capacity in four hours. Another FEMA drive-in site opens in my district in a day or two.
The tsunami-like number of test samples to be analyzed will likely overcome capacity.
Treatment protocols should not be paralyzed by the long wait for test results.
You—and the team—are doing an amazing job.
Smith told MMM that in a follow up phone call with Dr. Birx, she assured him that she would explore whether “compassionate use” of remdesivir or and any other drug like chloroquine can be expanded if the attending physician makes a clinical diagnosis that the patient is suffering from COVID 19.
Smith said that Dr. Birx is an extraordinary leader that he has worked on for many years in her capacity as the Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.
Smith was the prime sponsor of the 2018 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) 5 year, $30 billion reauthorization, on which he worked closely with Dr. Birx.
Smith said that he is concerned that public and private labs could be overwhelmed as COVID-19 tests become available, including at the PNC Arts Center next week. Allowing doctors to treat their patients with remdesivir, chloroquine, or other promising therapies, prior to test results being confirmed, could prevent the additional tragic loss of life.
Read online here.