Experimental COVID-19 treatment drug now being used in Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- The Missouri Department of Health has shipped around 1,500 vials of Remdesivir, the experimental drug being used to treat hospitalized coronavirus patients, to over 50 hospitals around the state.

Those facilities include Mercy and Cox in Springfield, where each hospital has treated one patient so far.

Even though many COVID-19 patients who become severely ill are older with pre-existing health problems, at Cox the patient treated was a 22 year-old pregnant woman who received both Remdesivir and plasma treatment.

"Her story is really amazing to me because I look at a patient like her as being very heroic, what she's gone through," said CoxHealth CEO/President Steve Edwards. "Physicians wanted to save the baby so they quickly rushed her in to the labor delivery suites to do a emergency C-section. They were able to save the baby. The baby is actually in the ICN and recovering very well right now. It's an important reminder to me how this can effect all of us."

"She had a pretty miraculous recovery," added Dr. Amy Ford-Turner, a CoxHealth Pulmonology Care Specialist. "She went from being on significant support on a ventilator to not needing any type of oxygen whatsoever."

Mercy provided less details about its one patient being treated but Clinical Pharmacy Specialist Dan Hansen said, "It's very early but we're seeing a trend in the right direction and seeing encouraging results so far."

The studies on the experimental drug are ongoing, but nationwide Remdesivir has reduced the average recovery time from 15-to-11 days and death rates are down from 11 percent to 8 percent.

"What we see here is not a cure but a very, very significant and important treatment for patients," said Daniel O'Day, the Chairman of Gilead, the company that makes Remdesivir.

The reason Remdesivir isn't a cure is because while it attacks the virus, it does not help the other complications patients develop from the illness like lung or heart problems.

"There's no special mechanisms to that drug that would help with your breathing," Ford-Turner explained. "But we're hoping that the inflammatory effects of the virus can be dampened by this type of drug."

"I don't think that it's going to be the end treatment that we're going to end up seeing as the best thing for these patients," Hansen added. "I think other things that are going to develop beyond this drug will probably come down the line that will be more effective in the future. But certainly where we are right now, it's by far the most promising agent that I think we've had available to us."