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Anti-inflammatory medication in short supply as COVID-19 drives spike in demand

Hospital Room/North Arkansas Regional Medical Center
Hospital Room/North Arkansas Regional Medical Center(KY3)
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 8:46 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The makers of an arthritis drug that was approved by the F.D.A. a few months ago to fight inflammatory symptoms related to COVID-19 issued a warning that the drug is in critically short supply.

Actemra is an anti-inflammatory medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. In June 2021, the F.D.A. issued an emergency use authorization to use Actemra to treat hospitalized adults and pediatric patients who require supplemental oxygen, ventilation or ECMO.

As COVID-19 hospitalizations skyrocket in Alabama, across the country and around the globe, the makers of the drug, Roche’s Genentech, warn that it will be a struggle to keep up with the sudden unprecedented demand.

“The dramatic emergence of the COVID-19 Delta variant, as well as the unexpected slowing of vaccination rates in the U.S., has led to an overwhelmingly high incidence of COVID-19 hospitalizations in certain areas of the country. This new wave of the pandemic has led to Genentech experiencing an unprecedented demand for Actemra IV-- well-over 400% of pre-COVID levels over the last two weeks alone and it continues to increase,” the pharmaceutical company said in a statement released earlier this week.

“We are experiencing a temporary stockout of Actemra IV in the U.S. for 200mg and 400mg SKUs, as of Monday, August 16th, and have notified our customers. We currently have a short supply of the 80mg SKU, and we anticipate stockout by the end of the week,” the statement went on to say.

St. Vincent’s Hospital infectious disease expert Dr. Leland Allen says that the shortage is indeed impacting them and points out that people who are prescribed the medication for daily use will also be affected.

“We’re having a lot of difficulty getting [Actemra}. All the patients that were on that drug for their auto immune diseases are having trouble with it also. So it’s really gotten to be a problem,” said Dr. Allen.

If you have questions about how this will impact your health, reach out to your doctor.

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