South Florida hospitals reporting shortage of remdesivir as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

MIAMI (WSVN) - A shortage of a new drug used as an emergency treatment for coronavirus is causing another headache for medical personnel on the front lines of the pandemic.

Speaking with 7News on Monday, Lissette Monzon said her mother, 78-year-old Norma Perez, is ill and was waiting on remdesivir.

“It’s been really hard. It’s been really hard,” said Monzon.

Ten members of her family have the virus, including herself and her husband.

“I’m the only child, so it’s on me, and it’s been really hard,” said Monzon.

The next morning, however, the family received good news from South Miami Hospital, which is part of Baptist Health South Florida.

“They contacted up today that they were able to allocate some remdesivir for my mom,” Monzon said Tuesday.

South Miami Hospital’s ability to somehow track down and give the drug to Perez brought much-needed relief not only for Monzon but for her mother’s caregivers.

“I even felt the relief in the doctor’s voice when she let me know today that, yes, they found it and they’re going to start her on this,” said Monzon.

It has been virtually impossible to find the emergency drug, which has shown promise in some COVID-19 patients.

One of them, Broward County schoolteacher Stephanie Miller, was treated with the drug and eventually released from the hospital.

Last Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence was in Tampa Bay and said thousands across South Florida would soon have the drug.

“I’m pleased to report to your governor today that just yesterday, the latest shipment of remdesivir arrived in Florida; 34,000 vials of remdesivir that will literally treat thousands of patients in this state,” he said.

Various hospitals, including Jackson Memorial Hospital, have been unable to gain access to the drug.

Jackson Memorial released a statement Monday that reads, “Jackson has been working closely with the state to obtain the drug remdesivir. The state, which has been donating the drug to Jackson, temporarily ran out of its supply last Tuesday. We are currently in the process to secure more supplies. During this time, Jackson has enough supply of the drug to ensure that those patients who met criteria were still able to receive this treatment.”

Several other hospitals and health systems did not respond to 7News’ requests for information.

Speaking at a news conference in Miami Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said remdesivir is no longer distributed by the state, but more is on the way.

“It’s due in soon,” he said.

DeSantis said the drug is now going directly from the manufacturer to the hospitals.

“I talked to the vice president and told him that we want to make sure that we don’t have a gap, so they’re working on it as well, but it’s a change in how it’s being distributed now,” he said.

It remains unclear which hospitals received the remdesivir doses Pence referred to last week, but there’s no doubt more are needed in South Florida as hospitalizations climb.

Monzon said she is desperate to be by her mother’s side, but they are kept apart by the virus.

“Some are going through worse, and I know that, I know that. I want the help to come to Florida. That’s what I’m hoping for,” she said. “I don’t want anyone else to be going through this.”

Monzon said her loved ones have taken precautions to prevent the virus, and even though remdesivir has not been proven, she wants to give her mother a fighting chance to survive.

“We’re just praying that this is going to be the miracle that’s going to save her and bring her home to us,” she said.

Tuesday night, a spokesperson for Baptist Health South Florida released an official statement about their current supply list. It reads in part, “We currently have a limited quantity of remdesivir on hand at each of our hospitals. The state has notified hospitals that it does not have additional supply at this time and has set forth a process for allocating remdesivir to hospitals moving forward. We expect to be able to order remdesivir again in approximately one week.”

Perez’s family said she was supposed to begin treatment with remdesivir on Tuesday, but it has been pushed back until Wednesday.

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