OKLAHOMA CITY — State leaders have started distributing a promising COVID-19 treatment drug to hospitals across the state.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said Wednesday the state received 810 vials of the antiviral drug remdesivir from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He said the state expects to receive another 300 vials next week.

“We have those on their way now to Norman, McAlester (and) Tahlequah hospitals as well as others around the state,” he said.

Stitt said he’s also removed red tape to allow hospitals to request vials based on their needs.

The drug is only administered through IV to COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization.

Dr. Mousumi Som, OSU Medical Center chief of staff, said the drug, which has received emergency use authorization, can shorten the recovery of patients to 11 days. Recovery in patients that didn’t receive the antiviral took 15 days.

“So that’s a big deal when your patient is suffering from COVID-19,” Som said.

Stitt said a recent study showed patients who received the antiviral were 62% more likely to recover from COVID-19.

Dr. Lance Frye, the state’s interim health commissioner, said he’s not certain why the state was selected to receive remdesivir, but said federal officials are sending it to locations where there is the greatest need.

Dr. Doug Drevets, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, said OU Medicine now has at least a three-month supply.

As new treatments emerge, Drevets said Oklahoma physicians are getting better at caring for the sickest Oklahomans. They’re using a combination of antiviral and anti-inflammatory medications to help patients.

They’re also continuing to use plasma blood donations from recovered COVID-19 patients to treat some of the most ailing Oklahomans.

Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at jstecklein@cnhi.com.

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