Remdesivir treatment period for COVID-19 patients kept hospital beds full while they were scarce

A bottle containing the drug Remdesivir is held by a health worker at the Institute of...
A bottle containing the drug Remdesivir is held by a health worker at the Institute of Infectology of Kenezy Gyula Teaching Hospital of the University of Debrecen in Debrecen, Hungary, Thursday Oct. 15, 2020. A large study led by the World Health Organization released on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, suggests that the antiviral drug did not help hospitalized COVID-19 patients, in contrast to an earlier study that made the medicine a standard of care in the United States and many other countries. The results do not negate the previous ones, and the WHO study was not as rigorous as the earlier one led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. But they add to concerns about how much value the pricey drug gives because none of the studies have found it can improve survival. (Zsolt Czegledi/MTI via AP)(Zsolt Czegledi | AP)
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 11:46 AM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - A new study from a professor in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine contradicts previous clinical trials that said remdesivir treatment would shorten recovery time, allowing for faster discharge of patients and more open beds for COVID-19 patients.

The study found that some patients may have stayed in the hospital longer than necessary to complete five and 10-day remdesivir treatments when they could have left sooner. Those treatments may have kept hospital beds full at a time when beds were scarce due to the pandemic.

The study was led by Michael Ohl, MD, MSPH, an associated professor of internal medicine with University of Iowa Health Care and a physician with the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

Ohl said it is reasonable to follow the NIH and Infectious Disease Society of America guidelines for remdesivir use, but doctors should avoid admitting people or keeping people in hospitals, solely to receive remdesivir if the patient doesn’t meet other criteria for hospitalization.

Analysis of the study, that tracked outcomes for 2,344 hospitalized adults with COVID-19 in 123 VA hospitals, showed that remdesivir not only increased the median time to discharge by three days, but also was not associated with improved 30-day survival. The study used data from confirmed COVID-19 patients at 123 Veterans Health Administration hospitals from May 1 to October 8, 2020.

Remdesivir remains in use for COVID-19 treatment at UIHC and hospitals across the country, but Ohl says the length of stay issue is probably not significant at UIHC.

UIHC said its physicians have been very careful to avoid keeping COVID-19 patients in the hospital solely to complete remdesivir treatment if they are otherwise stable for discharge.

COVID-19 hospitalizations peaked in Iowa in November 2020, when the number surpassed 1,500.

In early November, ahead of the peak in hospitalizations in Iowa, Suresh Gunasekaran, MBA, chief executive officer of UI Hospitals & Clinics and associate vice president for UI Health Care, said hospitals across Iowa were stretched thin, but were built to handle the increase in patients.

Other hospitals in Iowa also said they could handle the increased capacity of COVID-19 patients, with some exchanging patients to stave off capacity concerns.

More recently, COVID-19 hospitalizations have remained low, but steady as health officials continue to encourage Iowans to get vaccinated. More than 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Iowa.

See the study results here.

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