Jamaica approves Remdesivir for treatment of COVID-19 patients

Jamaicans infected with COVID-19 will soon have access to the antiviral drug Remdesivir which has proven to shorten the recovery time for some patients.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has indicated that it will be procuring supplies of the drug through the National Health Fund to treat COVID-19 patients in public facilities.

The ministry, in a statement Wednesday, said it took the decision following a public call for greater access to Remdesivir.

It explained that the procurement is based on the available scientific evidence, including in the highly rated New England Journal of Medicine, that shows Remdesivir may be effective in the treatment of the coronavirus. The drug has been shown to reduce the length of in-hospital stay by five days and to reduce mortality rates by four per cent.

However, the ministry has advised that clinical trials are still ongoing in various countries.

“So far, the drug has not received full approval in any country and is being used under ‘Emergency Use Authorisation’ in some countries,” the ministry noted.

“In Jamaica, while we await full registration approval in the country of origin, the drug can be used under the controls of a study or under an emergency license…,” the statement added.

The ministry has issued a number of emergency permits for the importation of the drug. This requires a letter from the prescribing physician indicating the need for this drug and including recognition of the responsibility for prescribing an unapproved drug as well as the consent of the patient to take an unapproved drug, the statement continued.

The ministry said it has stipulated that the prescribing and administering of the drug must comply with the following conditions:

– Informed consent must be obtained;

– Inventory control systems must be put in place at the facilities to ensure that records of the dispensed product and patient information are maintained — similar to that used for controlled substances;

– That the drug be administered to hospitalised patients who are closely monitored;

– Serious adverse events must be tracked and reported to the Pharmacovigilance Unit of the Standards and Regulations Division of the ministry, using the PharmWatch Drug Monitoring Form, located on the ministry website.

The move to procure Remdesivir, once touted as a “wonder drug” for COVID-19, is timely as Jamaica’s death toll has moved from 10 in the first week of August to 151 as of Wednesday. The number of people infected with COVID-19 has moved from just under 1,000 during the same period to 7,989, also as of Wednesday.