Smith to White House: Allow Doctors Flexibility to Give Key Meds Prior to Test Results
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) is pressing the White House to approve treating suspected COVID-19 patients with approved “compassionate use” drug therapies prior to their COVID-19 test results being confirmed.
Smith asked Ambassador Dr. Deborah Birx, MD, the Coordinator of The White House Coronavirus Task Force, and Joe Grogan, White House Domestic Policy Council Director, whether new guidance can be issued to permit a physician to administer remdesivir without confirmation of infection by a test.
“Tragically, seven members of one family in my district were hospitalized with COVID 19,” Smith said, “Four have passed away while two others remain hospitalized. Nineteen family members were tested. We have to find a way to allow doctors the flexibility to do their jobs and give the best fighting chance to the patients.”
On behalf of the family, Smith and his staff contacted Quest, including CEO Steve Rusckowski directly, and asked that under the circumstances the family’s test results be hastened, and Quest quickly complied. The delays had hindered treatment as well as how family members should isolate. Smith said that doctors at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, NJ told him me they couldn’t administer remdesvir without confirmation of the virus via test results.
At a White House teleconference, Smith also asked Dr. Hilary Marston of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) about the problem. She also stated said that confirmation of infection is required prior to treatment.
“How many other seriously ill patients have been refused remdesivir because of delays in confirming the virus?” said Smith. “We need new guidance to be issued to permit a doctor to give remdesivir more promptly—even while they're waiting for pending test results confirming COVID 19—to a patient who manifests symptoms of COVID-19.”
Smith noted doctors—and patients whose very lives could depend on how soon medications may be administered to them—should not be hampered by long waits for test results.
“The tsunami-like number of test samples to be analyzed will likely overcome capacity,” Smith said. “Treatment protocols should not be paralyzed by the long wait for test results.”
In a follow-up phone call Dr. Birx assured the congressman that she would explore whether “compassionate use” of remdesivir or any other drug like chloroquine can be expanded if the attending physician makes a clinical diagnosis that the patient is suffering from COVID 19.
Smith called Dr. Birx is “an extraordinary leader” that he has worked on for many years in her capacity as the Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. Smith was the prime sponsor of the 2018 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) five-year, $30 billion reauthorization, on which he worked closely with Dr. Birx.
Smith said that he is concerned that public and private labs could be overwhelmed as COVID-19 tests become available, including at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ in his district. Allowing doctors to treat their patients with remdesivir, chloroquine, or other promising therapies, prior to test results being confirmed, could prevent the additional tragic loss of life.