ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico received its first shipment of Remdesivir in May. KRQE News 13 takes a look at whether the anti-viral drug is helping COVID-19 patients here. Dr. Michelle Harkins at the University of New Mexico Hospital says the earlier you give COVID-19 patients the anti-viral drug, the better.

“One of the large studies from the NIH, they looked at over a thousand patients and patients that got Remdesivir had a shorter hospital stay by about four days and it trended to improve mortality,” said Dr. Harkins.

Most COVID patients at UNMH are prescribed it. So, is the treatment working on patients? “It’s hard to say. I think that when we start things early, people do better but this virus is very unusual and sometimes just when you think everything is going well and the patient will enter this secondary phase called cytokine storm and they get a fever and have worsening respiratory status,” Dr. Harkins said.

Dr. Harkins said they inform patients Remdesivir hasn’t been FDA approved but was released for emergency use. “This is not the cure by any means and it’s not the solution but it’s our first indication of something that might help patients have a shorter hospital duration,” Dr. Harkins said.

She says the next step is to look if Remdesivir mixed with another drug could be the answer. UNMH has been invited by the National Institutes of Health to help find out. “Looking at Remdesivir plus or minus another agent a placebo or an agent called Baricitinib, which is an anti-inflammatory drug that is used typically for rheumatoid arthritis and trying to prevent the overwhelming inflammation that occurs with COVID-19,” Dr. Harkins said.

She says it’s an honor for UNM to take part in an international clinical trial. “We bring a unique patient population that may be underrepresented,” said Dr. Harkins. She says the state’s Department of Health allocates Remdesivir equally to all major hospitals and says they have plenty for routine patient care.