(Adds detail, background)
LONDON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Britain has rationed its supplies
of the antiviral drug remdesivir and is prioritising COVID-19
patients who need it most in the face of rising demand,
Britain's health ministry said on Tuesday, with further supplies
expected this month.
Gilead Sciences' remdesivir has been shown to
shorten hospital recovery time in severe cases of COVID-19,
although it has not been shown to reduce mortality.
It was one of the drugs used to treat U.S. President Donald
Trump, and an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalised
patients has put strains on supplies.
"We are aware of a rise in the use of remdesivir in line
with an increase in COVID-19 hospital cases," a British health
ministry spokesman said in an emailed statement.
"While there remain plenty of remdesivir supplies, we have
asked the NHS (National Health Service) to temporarily
prioritise patients to ensure those most likely to benefit can
In July, an English health official said that new drugs like
remdesivir were likely to see supply issues compared to existing
generic drugs that can be used to treat COVID-19, such as
On Tuesday, the health ministry said that it was expected
that the extra criteria for remdesivir use should only be in
place for a few weeks, with more remdesivir supplies due towards
the end of October, though that would depend on how many
patients were hospitalised.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Michael Holden)