July 8, 2020 / 10:20 AM / a month ago

South Korea seeks remdesivir to treat over 5,000 COVID patients -lawmaker

SEOUL, July 8 (Reuters) - South Korea has asked Gilead Sciences Inc's to supply enough of its anti-viral drug remdesivir to treat more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in preparation for a potential second wave of infections, an opposition lawmaker said on Wednesday.

One of the few treatments shown to alter the course of COVID-10, remdesivir is in high demand, but there are concerns about its availability after Gilead allocated nearly all of its supply to the United States over the next three months.

South Korea said last week it has 33 severely ill patients who are eligible for the intravenously-administered medicine which helped to shorten hospital recovery times in a clinical trial.

In a letter sent to Gilead on June 3, South Korea had requested doses for 360 patients who are in urgent need of the drug, and for enough to have ready for an additional 5,000 patients in the event of a second wave of infections. The document specified six vials for each patient.

A copy of the letter was disclosed on Wednesday by South Korean lawmaker Kang Gi-yun.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said they had roughly estimated the number of patients who might fall severely ill based on its experience of COVID-19 so far, but needs could change, its chief Jeong Eun-kyeong told a briefing on Wednesday.

Gilead Korea told Reuters they had received a letter on June 3 but could not disclose details due to a confidentiality agreement.

South Korea has been battling small but steady outbreaks of the new coronavirus, with 63 new cases reported as of Tuesday, bringing the country's total to 13,244 cases with 283 deaths. (Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Miyoung Kim & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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