Amid global controversy surrounding the use of Remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients, local surgeon Dr Alfred Dawes is supporting the Government’s decision to administer the drug under a special use provision.

When contacted by the Jamaica Observer for a comment in relation to Jamaica using the drug that was once frowned upon in the earlier stages of the onslaught of COVID-19, Dr Dawes asserted that the contention lies with people mistaking Remdesivir for a vaccine, when that is not its purpose.

“There are misconceptions because people hear about Remdesivir, and they are linking it to vaccines and it is not a vaccine, it has nothing to do with a vaccine. It works completely different from a vaccine,” he said.

The controversy around its use arose because the verdict on its effect is still out, due to scientific studies positing that there is no benefit to COVID-19 patients. However, Dr Dawes explained that in medicine, while studies may not conclusively support a medication, in lieu of another treatment option the drug can be offered with hopes of patient improvement in dire circumstances.

“A lot of times studies change. Chloroquine was supposed to be very good, then they stopped one study saying there is no benefit. Then they restarted the study saying that there is a benefit, so these things change with time. There are other treatments like steroids, that goes and comes and there may be a benefit in a select number of patients, so you don’t necessarily buy a whole stock or trailer load and say you’re going to hit everybody with it. But, in selected patients there may be a benefit. However, when you give it to everybody, when you pool the resource overall, you may not get a great benefit,” Dr Dawes explained.

“Usually, if a clinician is giving that medication it’s on a selective basis, where you just want to try something to see if you can save a life because everything else you’re trying is not working. It’s not like you’re going to broad scale give everyone or force everyone to take it. You have a discussion with the patient and the family and then, based on that, you may decide this is somebody who is very sick and nothing is happening, however, the conditions that they currently have, the Remdisivir may help in that person and you give them a shot,” he said.

Meanwhile, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the use of the drug was based on available scientific evidence, including that published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the approval of the drug’s use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


He reiterated that the drug is for special use and will be administered on a trial basis with requirements for the doctor to record the impact and effect of its use.

“It’s a trial drug under emergency approval circumstances. Once all the rules apply from the patients’ perspective with their knowledge and consent, as well as the write up on impact and effect, then we are comfortable until we discern more scientific information and validation around the drug,” Tufton said.


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