1 big thing ... Scoop: Snafu misdirects virus drug
A breakdown in communication and coordination within the Trump administration has undermined the distribution of a promising coronavirus treatment, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.
- Why it matters: The drug, remdesivir (pronounced "rem-DESS-uh-veer"), hasn't made it to some of the hospitals where it's most needed.
- Administration officials have responded by trying to shift blame.
Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir, donated hundreds of thousands of doses to the federal government after the FDA authorized it as an emergency treatment for coronavirus patients.
- More than 32,000 doses were delivered Tuesday to Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia.
- But many of the doses went to "less impacted counties," an administration official said.
How it happened: The criteria for distributing the drug was based on outdated data — the best the federal government had available, a senior administration official said.
- The official added that the failure highlights the need for better data. "But it more importantly highlights the reason why the administration continues to push a locally-executed response effort, because they [the local jurisdictions] know the data and the distribution better than the federal government."
- The administration will use more stringent criteria to target the remaining doses, a source familiar with the planning said.
HHS was supposed to be the brains of the operation, using clinical expertise to allocate the drug to the places and hospitals around the country most in need, according a senior administration official, while FEMA was supposed to be the "arms and legs" putting that plan into action.
- But somewhere along the way, communication broke down.
- Thousands of doses were maldistributed. But nobody was willing to put their name on the situation.
Behind the scenes: Senior officials, including Vice President Pence and White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, were angry.
- At Wednesday's meeting of the Coronavirus task force, Pence personally directed HHS Secretary Alex Azar to take more ownership for getting remdesivir to the places where it's needed.
- In subsequent conversations with colleagues, Azar said he had not known about the arrangements that led to mass confusion and misaligned shipments the day before.
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