South Korea so far has administered remdesivir, an experimental drug conventionally used for Ebola, to 49 coronavirus patients in critical condition here, health authorities said Tuesday.
The medication developed by US pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences Inc. started being supplied to treat COVID-19 patients here earlier this month, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
Coronavirus patients who need oxygen treatment, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), have been administered the drug in 24 hospitals across the country, the KCDC said.
South Korea's drug safety watchdog approved the use of remdesivir as a treatment drug for the new coronavirus in June, allowing the drug's special importation.
The first batch of antiviral drugs was donated by Gilead Science. The KCDC plans to begin talks to purchase more, with details of the imported amount and price not to be disclosed.
Gilead Sciences earlier announced it will provide remdesivir at $390 per vial for direct purchases by the United States and other developed countries.
COVID-19 patients here will not pay for the drug, as the country covers the cost of treating the highly infectious disease under the related law.
Coronavirus patients are given six vials of remdesivir over five days, which amounts to $2,340 per patient for a typical regimen. If necessary, the drug can be administered for another five days.
The country added 33 cases Tuesday, including 14 local infections, raising the total caseload to 13,512, according to the KCDC. (Yonhap)