Today, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5) pressed Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor for answers following the announcement of disbursement of the clinical drug Remdesivir, one of the few promising treatments for COVID-19.
Two weeks ago, Gilead Sciences, the maker of Remdesivir, announced that it was donating 607,000 doses (or enough to treat approximately 78,000 patients) of the life-saving drug to the federal government.
From the outset, it has been unclear how this treatment would be distributed and by whom, FEMA or HHS, and what criteria would be used to make these determinations. Distribution of Remdesivir began this week, but large shipments were being sent to areas with low rates of infection while regions with thousands of hospitalized patients received nothing -- including Pennsylvania.
In a press release issued by HHS on Saturday, May 9 detailing the next round of disbursement of Remdesivir, Pennsylvania was not among the states listed to receive this live-saving treatment, despite having 52,915 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Congresswoman Scanlon, who represents Delaware County, and portions of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties -- Pennsylvania’s regional hotspot for COVID-19 -- questioned the administration’s confusing and inequitable disbursement of this life-saving treatment.
“Pennsylvania received no allocation of Remdesivir in the first two distributions, although officials have since been told, anecdotally, that the Commonwealth may receive 30 cases of the drug -- about the same amount as several states with much lower rates of infection,” Congresswoman Scanlon said.
In her letter to Secretary Azar and Administrator Gaynor, Congresswoman Scanlon wrote: “With the COVID19 virus disproportionately impacting metropolitan areas in the Mid-Atlantic, the Philadelphia region has been hit harder by COVID-19 than the rest of the Commonwealth, with the three counties that I represent having almost 70,000 confirmed infections and, by the time you read this, at least 2000 deaths. With our healthcare infrastructure pushed to its limits, it is crucial for the hospitals in our region to have supplies of Remdesivir to treat critically ill patients.”
Congresswoman Scanlon has formally requested that HHS and FEMA:
(1) Distribute Remdesivir to Pennsylvania to make this drug readily available in southeastern Pennsylvania,
(2) Disclose the criteria being used to allocate the drug, and
(3) Ensure that distribution is based upon state and regional COVID-19 case data and hospitalization rates.
A copy of the full inquiry to HHS and FEMA is attached.