New York: Amid news that the US has bought up virtually the entire global supply of remdesivir, a new study outlines how the drug could save lives in countries with a lower hospital capacity, such as South Africa, where Covid-19 is beginning to overwhelm intensive care units (ICUs).
The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, estimated that remdesivir’s ability to shorten ICU stays could increase the number of patients treated in South Africa’s ICUs by more than 50 per cent.
“There are many countries with limited ICU capacity that could benefit from this double impact on mortality,” says study lead author Dr Brooke Nichols, Assistant Professor at the Boston University.
For the remdesivir study, the research team used their South African National Covid-19 Epidemiology model to look at the estimated three to six months when severe cases will exceed the country’s 3,450 available ICU beds. If every one of South Africa’s ICU patients with Covid-19 received remdesivir, reducing the average ICU stay, the researchers estimated that the number of patients treated in ICUs from June to December would increase from between 23,443 and 32,284 patients to between 36,383 and 47,820.
The findings showed that the increased capacity of remdesivir could save as many as 6,862 lives per month as the country’s cases peak and the drug could prevent the deaths of as many as 13,647 South Africans by December.
The mortality rate for Covid-19 in ICUs varies from country to country and hospital to hospital, so the number of lives saved from increased ICU capacity would also vary, the study said.
The research team has been modelling South Africa’s Covid epidemic to help the country’s government make informed decisions, and previously predicted that the country’s ICU capacity could be overwhelmed as early as this month. “The hardest-hit province, the Western Cape, exceeded ICU capacity in June,” the study authors informed.
Earlier this month, the European Commission had authorised anti-viral drug remdesivir for the treatment against coronavirus, making it the first drug authorised at the European Union level for the treatment of Covid-19.