Coronavirus News Roundup: Remdesivir Allocation Concerns, New Tests and Tools Ready for Use

May 8, 2020

Here's a roundup of the latest coronavirus-related news.

Confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the United States have reached more than 3,800,000. As the United States prepares to reopen in some regions, medical researchers and health care workers are mobilizing to meet demand and care for those infected with the virus.

Here’s a roundup of the latest coronavirus-related news:

Famotidine Shortages Continue Amid Pandemic

The FDA recently added famotidine to its list of drug shortages, just a week after Science Magazinereported on a clinical trial in which patients with severe COVID-19 were receiving intravenous famotidine, the active compound in the OTC heartburn drug Pepcid.

However, short supplies of the drug date back to when recalls of ranitidine products began late last year.

Community pharmacists told Drug Topics® that the COVID-19 clinical trial is likely not the root cause. The ranitidine recalls that began late last year triggered the famotidine shortage, they said.

“I had to order it at Amazon a couple of months ago because we can’t get it in our store,” Kyona Nason, PharmD, a pharmacist for a national drugstore chain, told Drug Topics®. "It’s been a problem for months since the various ranitidine recalls.”

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ASHP Urges Transparency of Remdesivir Allocations to Hospitals

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence to urge the transparent and orderly allocation of remdesivir among hospitals.

According to the letter, remdesivir’s very limited initial supply suggests that many patients with COVID-19 will be unable to receive it, and therefore transparency regarding the timeline for future commercial availability and distribution of remdesivir is needed.

“Because the current supply is so limited, many of these hospitals will likely have to wait to purchase remdesivir until Gilead has commercial supply available. To allow hospitals to plan, it is imperative that the allocation process for the drug be transparent and well communicated to our nation’s hospitals, and their chief pharmacy officers and directors of pharmacy.”

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COVID-19 and Diabetes: Blood Sugar Control May Help Improve Outcomes

Individuals with pre-existing conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, have a demonstrated higher risk for developing more severe cases of COVID-19 infection, leading to higher morbidity and mortality. A new study sheds light on improving outcomes for patients with type 2 diabetes who are infected with the virus, suggesting that a focus on blood glucose control may be key.

For the study, which was published in Cell Metabolism, investigators performed a retrospective, multi-centered analysis of 7337 cases of COVID-19 in Hubei Province, China, among which 952 had pre-existing type 2 diabetes.

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NYU Study Finds High Blood Pressure Medications Use Safe with COVID-19

Research from New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine found no link between treatment with 4 drug classes-angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, beta blockers, or calcium channel blockers-and increased risk for becoming infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19.

The study also reported no significant increase in risk for severe COVID-19 infection, including intensive care, requiring a ventilator, and death, in individuals being treated with high blood pressure medications.

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FDA Authorizes Use of COVID-19 Antibody Test

The FDA has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for Roche’s antibody test for SARS-CoV-2 (Elecsys), which is among the most recent EUAs that the FDA has put into action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our best scientists have worked 24/7 over the last few weeks and months to develop a highly reliable antibody test to help fight this pandemic,” Thomas Schinecker, chief executive officer of Roche Diagnostics, said in a statement. “Roche is committed to helping laboratories deliver fast, accurate, and reliable results to healthcare professionals and their patients.”

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Free Drug Substitution Search Tool Confronts Potential Shortages From COVID-19

A new online resource intends to help identify alternative drug options for medications in shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scripta Insights announced the launch of its latest technological innovation-the Drug Substitution Search Tool- for individuals whose prescription availability may be interrupted by supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, according to a press release.

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Projected US Pediatric COVID-19 Numbers Could Overextend Resources

A recent study published in Public Health Management & Practice found that, based on projected numbers of severe pediatric cases of COVID-19 in the United States, a surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases would result in “unique challenges” and possible resource strain for pediatric intensive care units.

The empirical case projection study calculated estimated rates of children infected with COVID-19 in the United States, in addition to projected cumulative numbers of children severely ill with the virus and needing to be hospitalized.

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Case Study Reveals Rapid Uptake of Telemedicine in Health System Amid COVID-19

An increasing shift toward telemedicine use as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may have implications for long-term health care delivery, according to a new case report published in the Journal of the American Informatics Association.

With social distancing efforts and stay-at-home measures in effect for most, both patients and providers are utilizing more “virtual” care models to limit unneeded in-person interactions. With changes in insurer coverage of telemedicine visit types, the practice has been quickly leveraged and adopted on a wide scale.

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