The US government has bought up virtually the entire global supply of remdesivir, the only drug approved in the nation to treat coronavirus, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Monday.
That means that any other country will be hard-pressed to get access to the potentially life-saving antiviral medication.
Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir, has already donated about 120,000 treatment courses of the drug to the US stockpile – a supply set to run out next month.
Now the US will have guaranteed access to all 500,000-plus treatment courses the company plans produce in July, and 90 percent of its production for August and September.
It’s good news for American coronavirus patients, and in line with President Trump’s America-first approach to the pandemic, but could have devastating consequences for countries where cases are still on the rise, like Brazil and India.
The US has purchased 100% of next month’s global supply of the antiviral remdesivir to treat American coronavirus patients and 90% of the supply for August and September, meaning there will be very little left for other nations
‘President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorized therapeutic for COVID-19,’ said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
‘To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it.
‘The Trump Administration is doing everything in our power to learn more about life-saving therapeutics for COVID-19 and secure access to these options for the American people.’
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that there were 98.4 people hospitalized for every 100,000 people in the US.
Various models have estimated that by mid-July, between 1,000 and 15,000 Americans will be newly hospitalized a day. Many of those projections have shifted upwards in recent weeks, as the number of new cases in states like Texas and Arizona have hit new highs on a daily basis.
By July 15, the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics (IHME) currently projects that 209,553.86 US. hospital beds will be full.
President Trump and his administration have taken a resolutely ‘America-first’ approach to the coronavirus pandemic
With 100 percent of Gilead’s supply committed to the US next month, 94,200 patients will be able to receive a full treatment course.
Gilead estimated that with 90 percent of its supply dedicated to the US government for August and September, there will be enough of the drug for 174,900 and 232,800 treatment courses, respectively, each of those months.
Cases are expected to rise in much of the rest of the world as well. Brazil, for example, is projected to need more than five times as many beds per 100,000 people in its population as the by July 15, according to IHME’s model. Saudi Arabia is projected to have 15 times as many full beds.
But for those nations, there will be no remdesivir – an antiviral originally developed to treat Ebola, which can shorten recovery times markedly, and may improve survival odds, marginally – next month, and very little available through August and September.
‘I suspect there will be enough demand [in the US] – even though remdesivir is not a wonder drug – that it will be used here and won’t go anywhere else for many, many months,’ New York University bioethicist Dr Arthur Caplan told DailyMail.com.
‘It’s not a huge loss, but it’s a loss. It will mean more suffering. I don’t think it’s going to cost lives.’
National Institutes of Health (NIH) tests of remdesivir indicated that patients treated with the drug recovered d31 percent faster than those who got a placebo.
But the improvement of survival odds was minimal. Just over seven percent of those on remdesivir died, compared to 11.9 percent of those on not on the drug.
Still, it’s a potential benefit, and one that will be off the table for other countries, at least for the next three months.
‘The WHO and other groups have said that it’s not good to hoard a drug that you don’t need…people may argue that we should give it to the countries that need it most,’ Dr Caplan said.
‘But Trump has made it clear that he is going to provide drugs and vaccines – if they become available – to Americans first. He feels it’s the right thing to do and I suspect that there’s a little bit of a political motivation, given that there’s an election coming up, I’m not surprised at all.’
By September, the IHME model projects that the number of hospitalizations for coronavirus will be higher in nations in Africa, the Middle East and South America than in the US
It’s also hardly unprecedented. The international community never managed to agree upon a way to fairly, much less universally distribute vaccines and treatments for the 2009 H1N1 swine flu.
And there are no entities with the authority to enforce such distribution either. The WHO can call upon nations to behave in a philanthropic manner, but it has no punitive authority (and Trump has announced that the US will withdraw from the group any way).
‘Who’s in charge to say where [a drug or vaccine] will go? It’s really just local governments and they tend to respond politically more than ethically or scientifically,’ said Dr Caplan.
Hoarding remdesivir away from the rest of the world may not have particularly deadly consequences for other countries, but it’s the latest signal of a nationalist posture that could, if and when a vaccine is available, Dr Caplan said.
‘I think when China has one, it’s likely want to keep its vaccines [for itself], and India for India, and Britain for Britain, and the US for the US, too,’ said Dr Caplan.
‘We need to have a much more serious discussion about the future distribution for drugs and vaccines.’
China has already approved an experimental COVID-19 vaccine for its military members, and the UK currently leads the race among the rest of the world’s nations – so it could even be the US that loses out on the life-saving immunization as a result of the nationalist approach to development being taken by the Trump administration and, seemingly, much of the world.
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Florida has more coronavirus infections than all but eight countries
Coronavirus case numbers continued to spike over the weekend as Florida shattered it’s previous record number of new infections in a single day on Sunday and surpassed all but eight countries worldwide for the greatest number of cases.
More than 15,000 new positive coronavirus tests were reported on Sunday alone in the state, far outstripping the previous record of over 12,000 infections.
Florida reported more than 12,000 new cases on Monday – more than all of Europe combined.
Nearly 60,000 Americans tested positive in total on Sunday, although the daily death toll remained low, at 428, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University. Both in hotspots like Florida, and nationwide, fatalities have turned slightly upward, but remain low as experts warn the spike in deaths may be yet to come.
The sharp rise in cases in Florida comes as the state presses on with its reopening plan, including opening the gates to Disney World, which allowed tourists in for the first time in months over the weekend.
Last week, the state hit a new high death toll, but its daily fatalities remain far lower than the numbers seen in New York when it was the pandemic’s epicenter.
Despite that somewhat encouraging shift, the US remains the worst-hit country in the world, with more than 3.3 million coronavirus cases and more than 135,000 deaths.
Florida smashed its previous record number of coronavirus cases on Sunday, reporting more than 15,000 new positive tests (far right; data for Monday not yet shown)
Despite the steep rise in coronavirus cases in Florida, the number of daily deaths has continued to decline f
While newly diagnosed cases remain high in previous hotspots like Arizona and Texas, Florida is now indisputably the most concerning state in the nation.
In Texas, where several counties saw their hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus cases had fewer than 8,800 new cases diagnosed Sunday, compared to Florida’s 15,300.
Similar patterns to those seen in Texas are emerging in Florida. Hospitals in Miami-Dade County are now approaching capacity as coronavirus threatens to flood the healthcare system.
Stockpiles of remdesivir, the only antiviral drug shown to help coronavirus patients recover more quickly, are dwindling in Florida, leaving some hospitals in the state with no effective treatments for their patients.
Despite the record-breaking rise in coronavirus cases, Florida beaches were crowded last weekend, with few masks in sight
Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo offered to send one day’s worth of the medication to Florida.
The small shipment was enough to treat 280 patients and act as a stopgap for Florida on Saturday, while the state was awaiting the delivery of remdesivir from the federal government.
Florida Governor Rick DeSantis said that he had personally secured the new supply of the antiviral from President Trump, after vehemently denying that the state needed assistance from New York.
But doctors there tell a different story.
‘It’s been very frustrating,’ Dr Eliot Godofsky, an infectious disease specialist in Bradenton, South Florida, told the Sun-Sentinel.
‘Patients suffer and you just feel terrible.’
So far, nearly 4,300 Floridians have died of coronavirus, and its fatality rate has hovered just below 20 per 100,000 residents.
Arizona’s rapid increase in coronavirus cases has experts holding their breath for a subsequent rise in deaths
That’s below the rate seen in Arizona, where about 30 people per 100,000 residents have died of the virus.
Massachusetts’s outbreak has been relatively under control, with less than 300 new cases diagnosed each day for all of July, but its fatality rate soared much higher than either Florida’s or Arizona’s, with 120 people dying per 10,000.
California’s death rate is comparable to Florida’s, with 17.6 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents, while hard-hit but populous Texas has only about 10 coronavirus deaths per 100,000.
In part, the diverging patterns in cases and deaths – the steep rise in cases, but stable, relatively low number of deaths – across the nation and in many states reflects the massive ramp up of testing.
North carolina is being eyed as an emerging coronavirus hotspot new daily infections and hospitalizations climb
Idaho still has a low number of infections, but saw more than 400 new positive tests on Sunday. It has surpassed its previous peak of hospitalizations as well
Florida is now testing several times more people for coronavirus each day than New York was at the height of its crisis.
But experts warn that an uptick in fatalities may be yet to come, both in individual states like Florida and across the US.
Estimates of lag times vary, but many experts have warned that mid-July could bring a rise in fatalities.
Modelers have projected that by that same time, Florida may be seeing as many as 20,000 new cases a day.
Emerging hotspots are also being closely watched as well.
Louisiana has now surpassed its first case peak. On Sunday, more than 2,000 people there tested positive.
North Carolina, too, is facing a growing crisis. It too saw more than 2,000 new cases on Sunday, and doctors are concerned that remdesivir may run out there too.
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Man, 18, reveals how loss of aunt from COVID-19 inspired him to train as 111 call-handler
Tonight’s episode of the Channel 4 show follows university student Ollie, from the West Midlands, as he tries to squeeze five weeks of 111 call handler training into just a fortnight.
Explaining the personal reason why he wants to volunteer, an emotional Ollie explains: ‘Throughout my fundamental growing years I’ve always wanted to be caring and give something back.’
‘I think what happened to auntie Kate made me realise that actually, how can you be more helpful to families who are going through this?’
Ollie, 18, from the West Midlands, reveals how the loss of his aunt from coronavirus inspired him to train as a 111-call assessor to help the NHS at this time of crisis in tonight’s episode of Channel 4’s Paramedics: Britain’s Lifesavers
The university student says that what happened to his auntie Kate (pictured), aged 56, made him want to help others
Ollie was meant to be doing his A-levels this summer, but they were cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak,
‘My auntie Kate had a cold a week or so before we went into lockdown and it all got pretty serious,’ he says.
‘She isolated at home and as the lockdown progressed she just got worse and worse. We used the 911 service to try and find out some advice and a decision was taken she needed to go into hospital. At this point, we still didn’t know she had coronavirus.
‘We thought it was just a bad chest infection that she was quite prone to. She sort of deteriorated along that week and then she slowly passed away in early April.’
Second year student Sam (pictured, with mum Kate and Paul), 21, hits the road ready to treat patients suffering from breathing difficulties, isolation related mental health issues and patients in care homes
Sam (pictured) admits that he doesn’t feel 100% safe working on the frontline – despite having full PPE
‘I think it’s really hit hard my mum because she just wanted to be able to give her sister a kiss good bye but of course, you’re not allowed to.’
Ollie goes on to explain that the family had the funeral this week and that it was ‘horrible’ because only ten people were allowed in.
‘There’s 13-14 of us in our immediate family, and only 10 of us were allowed in the crematorium and it was juts ten chairs stressed out and it was more than 2m apart,’ he says. ‘It’s just horrible to see your family broken up – half there and half outside.’
The programme features exclusive access to West Midlands Ambulance Service at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in April.
To deploy more ambulances onto the frontline, managers took the unprecedented step of asking university student paramedics to step forward and work on an ambulance with only a single qualified paramedic by their side.
Speaking of safety on the frontline, Sam says: ‘You can’t be too safe. You can’t be sure. It’s dangerous. It’s scary’
Sam (pictured) is one of the university student paramedics who stepped up in a bid to deploy more ambulances onto the frontline
Second year student Sam, 21, hits the road ready to treat patients suffering from breathing difficulties, isolation related mental health issues and patients in care homes.
During the episode, Sam can be seen on a call out alongside experienced paramedic Rich – and talks about his feelings of being on the frontline.
‘You can be rushing to put your masks and gloves on but you need to be sure your gloves are on properly and that the mask is fully covering your nose and mouth,’ he said.
‘Not making sure your PPE is right is what causes people to contract the virus and it’s those little mistakes that you end up taking home to your family and stuff and that’s a mistake we can’t really risk.’
And when asked by the cameraman whether he feels safe when he’s out there, Sam admits: ‘I’d say it/’s 50/50. I can’t say for sure, “Yes I feel safe.” The risk is always going to be there. You can’t be too safe. You can’t be sure. It’s dangerous. It’s scary.’
Paramedics: Britain’s Lifesavers, 9pm on Channel 4
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Coronavirus can damage the heart, study confirms
Coronavirus patients can suffer irreversible heart damage as a result of their battle with the disease, a study of hospital patients has found.
More than half of infected patients who had heart scans while in hospital with Covid-19 showed abnormal changes to their organ.
One in eight had signs of ‘severe dysfunction’ in their heart and doctors couldn’t find any other explanation except the coronavirus.
In the UK around one in four people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 die of it but even survivors may be left with long-term illness, this research suggests.
The study, done by the British Heart Foundation, adds to concerns that coronavirus can cause widespread damage to the vital organs and leaves some ‘long-haulers’ with health problems that will last for months and even years after the infection.
Long-term effects can include coughing, shortness of breath and reduced lung capcity, and there is also evidence the virus can affect the brain and kidneys. A lung doctor who helped treat Boris Johnson said the virus is ‘this generation’s polio’.
One British Heart Foundation researcher referred to Covid-19 as a ‘multi-system disease’ that can spread all round the body.
Scientists studied echocardiogram scans from hospital patients around the world and found abnormalities that could only have been caused by Covid-19, they said (stock image of heart scan)
Professor Mark Dweck, who is also a cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘Covid-19 is a complex, multisystem disease which can have profound effects on many parts of the body, including the heart.
‘Many doctors have been hesitant to order echocardiograms for patients with Covid-19 because it’s an added procedure which involves close contact with patients.
‘Our work shows that these scans are important – they improved the treatment for a third of patients who received them.’
The study looked at 1,216 patients in hospitals in 69 countries around the world who had been given heart scans.
Fifty-five per cent of them showed signs of damaging changes to their hearts which were affecting how well they pumped blood – and most of them had had healthy hearts before.
A further 13 per cent of the patients showed severe dysfunction in their heart, which likely raised their risk of death or of having permanent illness.
UK LAUNCHES STUDY OF COVID-19’S LONG-TERM EFFECTS
Scientists in the UK will investigate the long-term effects of Covid-19 in a scientific study which launches this month.
The Department of Health has announced that up to 10,000 people will be involved in a study to look at how people who catch the coronavirus fare long-term.
Growing evidence suggests that even people who only get mildly sick may suffer long-lasting health effects including lung damage.
The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has warned that Covid-19 patients could be left with ‘extreme tiredness and shortness of breath for several months’.
The study, led by researchers and doctors in Leicester, will look at how people’s mental health is affected by illness and whether factors like sex or ethnicity affect how well someone recovers from Covid-19.
Patients in the study, which will receive £8.4million in funding, will have medical scans, blood tests and lung samples so experts can look at how they are affected.
It comes as the NHS has announced it’s launched a long-term recovery service called ‘Your Covid Recovery’, which will offer online advice to the public and more specialised physio and mental health support to some patients from this summer.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: ‘As well as the immediate health impacts of the virus it is also important to look at the longer-term impacts on health, which may be significant.
‘We have rightly focused on mortality, and what the UK can do straight away to protect lives, but we should also look at how Covid-19 impacts on the health of people after they have recovered from the immediate disease.’
Doctors and researchers in other studies have found that the virus can cause blood clots to form in the lungs and other vital organs.
Clots can be severely damaging and even fatal if they travel to their heart, brain and lungs.
Coronavirus is thought to damage the heart and circulation system by triggering harmful internal swelling, called inflammation, which puts extra strain on the body.
The study was only done on patients who had their hearts scanned, meaning it is not clear how coronavirus affects the hearts of people who aren’t critically ill.
Heart scans are only generally given to people who doctors already suspect have a heart problem, so the proportion of those with serious issues is particularly high in this group.
Professor Dweck added: ‘Damage to the heart is known to occur in severe flu, but we were surprised to see so many patients with damage to their heart with Covid-19 and so many patients with severe dysfunction.
‘We now need to understand the exact mechanism of this damage, whether it is reversible and what the long-term consequences of Covid-19 infection are on the heart.’
Professor Dweck and his colleagues said more coronavirus patients should have their hearts scanned so doctors can pick up on problems and treat them.
Because the scans – called echocardiograms – involve physical contact with a patient they are generally not done unless doctors suspect something is wrong.
But of the patients in the study, one in three had their treatment changed because of what medics picked up on the scans.
They were given heart failure drugs, for example, or had their fluid intake controlled more strictly. These changes in treatment may have saved lives, the scientists said.
People with heart disease are at a higher risk of dying if they catch the coronavirus than other people, data has shown – and research like this may shine a light on why.
If people’s hearts are already damaged, they may have less capacity to cope with and recover from further damage that the coronavirus can cause.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF, added: ‘Severe Covid-19 illness can result in damage to the heart and circulatory system.
‘We urgently need to understand more about why this is happening so we can provide appropriate care – both short and long term.
‘This global study – carried out at the height of the pandemic – shows that we must be on the lookout for heart complications in people with Covid-19 so that we can adapt their treatment, if needed.’
The long-term effects of the virus are increasingly coming to light now that the virus has been around for months and millions of people have recovered.
The UK’s Department of Health has now launched a study into how people get affected in the long run amid concerns they might suffer from breathing problems and mental health issues.
In March, one doctor who helped treat Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he was intensive care with the virus, likened the illness to polio.
Professor Nicholas Hart, a lung doctor at St Thomas’ Hospital, said on Twitter: ‘Covid-19 is this generation’s polio. Patients have mild, moderate and severe illness.
‘Large numbers of patients will have physical, cognitive and psychological disability post critical illness that will require long-term management.
‘We must plan ahead.’
The BHF study was published in the European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Imaging.
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