GOP Sen. Marco Rubio blames ‘unhealthy disconnect’ with Trump administration for reported remdesivir scarcity

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, speaks to members of the media as he walks through the Senate Subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday that shortages of a coronavirus treatment being reported in Florida’s hospitals are due to a “bad disconnect” with the Trump administration about his state’s needs.

Rubio, whose state is grappling with a massive surge in Covid-19 cases, said on Twitter that he’s heard reports as recently as “late last night” that “several hospitals” in Florida have “low or no supplies” of remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed by Gilead Sciences.

Shipments of the drug to Florida are coordinated by the federal government, Rubio tweeted, and “we have a bad disconnect between what they think we need & what we really need.”

In the past week, the administration has sent Florida two shipments of remdesivir – an amount that “was not based on the recent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations” and will not be enough to tide the state over until the next expected delivery on July 27, a spokesman for Rubio told CNBC.

“Hospitals are still seeking additional supplies of Remdesivir, as well as better communication with the federal government and a shorter lag time between submitting requests and having those requests fulfilled,” the spokesman said.

“Senator Rubio and our office have spoken with the White House and HHS, and we are working to ensure Florida’s hospital system receives the necessary resources it needs to deal with COVID-19 patients.”

Neither the Department of Health and Human Services nor the White House provided a response to the senator’s tweet.

Rubio, a frequent defender of President Donald Trump, said Monday that several Florida hospitals had recently voiced concerns about a “potentially critical shortage of Remdesivir.”

“I am in contact with federal officials in hopes of addressing this matter immediately,” Rubio tweeted then.

The reports emerged days before the Trump administration revealed it had ordered hospitals to start sending its data on coronavirus patients directly to HHS. The information had previously been posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency within the HHS that officials say used an outdated data collection system.

On Wednesday, HHS spokesman Michael Caputo said the CDC’s data tracking system, the National Health Safety Network, led to a one-week lag in data that was driving administration decisions compared with the reality in hospitals. During the Covid-19 pandemic, such a lag could cost lives as HHS officials use the data to make potentially life-saving decisions such as how to distribute the country’s scarce supply of remdesivir.

While no vaccine is available for the coronavirus, some studies of treatments like remdesivir have shown promising results. A study from Gilead published Friday found remdesivir reduced the risk of death for severely sick patients by 62% compared with standard care alone.

In June, the Trump administration announced a deal with Gilead to supply the U.S. with more than 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir for its hospitals through September. That figure represents nearly all of Gilead’s projected production for the next three months, according to HHS.

Florida is in the midst of a record-breaking spike in coronavirus cases. On Sunday, it reported more than 15,000 new cases, marking the highest single-day total of any state.

The virus’ spread in the Sunshine State comes months after other hot spots around the country, such as New York, managed to clamp down on transmission. Other states, including California, Texas and Arizona, are also experiencing a significant increase in Covid-19 cases.

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