Saint Michael’s picked for expanded access to potential COVID-19 treatment

By Eric Strauss
Newark | Apr 7, 2020 at 5:30 am

As the pharmaceutical industry seeks out ways to treat COVID-19, a Newark hospital is getting the chance to take part in a promising endeavor.

Saint Michael’s Medical Center is one of only a few sites in the world to participate in an expanded access program for remdesivir, a drug first developed by Gilead Sciences to treat Ebola. The antiviral drug has proven effective against two other coronaviruses, SARS and MERS, according to a news release, and will now be administered to critically ill patients fighting COVID-19.

Remdesivir, which is now in five large clinical trials, is given to critical patients on ventilators, Saint Michael’s said.

“The trial use of remdesivir is just one way Prime Healthcare hospitals are helping in the fight against this unprecedented pandemic,” David Silverman, vice president of pharmacy services for Prime, Saint Michael’s owner, said in a prepared statement. “We are currently exploring options for expanded access programs of the drug.”

There is currently no approved treatment for COVID-19, which is ravaging the globe. The drug is considered by the World Health Organization to be one of the most promising candidates, Saint Michael’s noted.

Remdesivir had been available through a “compassionate use” program for those too ill to participate in a clinical trial, James Fallon, the hospital’s director of clinical research, said. About 1,000 people were participating in that program. Through the expanded access program, hospitals and physicians can apply for emergency use of the drug for multiple severely ill patients at a time.

Saint Michael’s has worked with Gilead since the pharmaceutical firm was founded in 1987, it said. Prime purchased the hospital in 2016.

“Prime Healthcare’s mission of saving hospitals to save lives has never been more important, and we have been working tirelessly to provide resources to our patients and caregivers that will transform care, such as access to the most promising emerging treatments,” Dr. Kavitha Bhatia, chief medical officer of strategy for Prime, said in a statement.

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Eric Strauss | estrauss@roi-nj.com | @acerimrat