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Updated: Wednesday, 21 Oct 2009, 10:05 PM MDT
Published : Wednesday, 21 Oct 2009, 9:48 PM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An experimental drug is showing promise for the sickest swine flu patients, but for now most patients--including a Rio Rancho girl who died from the disease--have not had access to it.
Three H1N1 flu deaths in the past week show more New Mexicans are getting gravely ill before a vaccine arrives. Federal officials are estimating 300,000 H1N1 patients will become sick enough to be admitted to hospital intensive-care units.
The drug's name is peramivir, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services believes it could be in the hands of doctors treating critically ill patients in just a few days.
The intravenous drug wasn't available for Trinity Olivares, 5, of Rio Rancho, when she was placed in an ICU unit three weeks ago.
Twelve hours before she developed symptoms of the H1N1 flu virus she was helping her father tend to a sick mother and brother.
The next morning she was taken to the Lovelace Hospital where doctors could not help keep her condition from worsening.
"I kept questioning them of course. 'What's going on; what's going on?" said Trinity's father Michael Olivares told KRQE News 13. "And they were just too busy working on her. They didn't have time to stop and say, 'Let me tell you what's going on.'"
That night doctors brought Michael and his wife Danelle to look at Trinity, who was now fighting for her life.
"I saw her for maybe, 20-25 minutes, and her heart had stopped,"
Trinity's doctors did not have the option of treating her with peramivir, a drug some believe has brought back flu patients from the brink of death.
It's now classified "experimental" by the Food and Drug Administration. That means doctors who want to treat patients with peramivir have to appeal to the FDA for "compassionate use," a process that includes about four hours preparing paperwork.
In recent weeks doctors for a 51-year-old Atlanta man who had been on life support, and for a critically ill 11-year-old girl, believe these patients survived because of peramivir treatment.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Mack Sewell said he believes more area doctors in our New Mexico will want to have the option of using peramivir in their sickest flu patients.
"We're having a lot of flu activity," Sewell said. "And there clearly are a subset of patients who might benefit from this."
Olivares cannot say if peramivir would have saved his daughter if it were available. But since Trinity got so sick so fast, he said he wishes Trinity's doctors had that choice.
"If the doctor tells me, 'Your daughter is not going to make it. Can we try this experimental drug?' Of course," Olivares said. "Why would I say no?"
On Wednesday the New Mexico Department of Health reported three H1N1 deaths over the last week. They were a 51-year-old man from Santa Fe County and 47-year-old woman from Valencia County, both with chronic medical conditions, and an otherwise healthy 6-year-old girl from Santa Fe County.
Sixteen people have now died from H1N1 in New Mexico, nine of whom had underlying health issues.