BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is pushing the federal government to lower the price of antiviral drug remdesivir, but experts say it’s unclear how it compares to hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19.
Both drugs are meant to keep the virus from replicating within the body. The mechanisms for how the drugs reach that goal differ only slightly. The real differentiation between the two can be found in three aspects: patient health, speed, and cost.
Hydroxychloroquine is the most useful when combined with other medications like zinc. Jarred Vinney, a pharmacist at Bocage Pharmacy, says on its own, the drug won’t do much for COVID-19 patients, especially ones in intensive care.
The patients that benefit the most are the ones battling the virus at home. Because hydroxychloroquine is available at the pharmacy, patients who don’t need ICU care can access it with a prescription. It costs around $160 dollars and it takes a longer time to work, than remdesivir.
“As of now I think over all the hydroxychloroquine is the better choice for the price difference and the availability,” Vinney says.
Remdesivir opposes hydroxychloroquine in almost every aspect except for its purpose. It tackles the virus’ RNA bringing replication to a hault. But, the drug works faster and is more beneficial to patients in the hospital. It costs more than $3,000 dollars per treatment.
Prior to Jeff Landry’s attempt to bring the price of the drug down, James Ratliff, the director of hospital medicine at Ochsner, says his hospital was already making the shift to remdesivir from hydroxychloroquine.
“We did use hydroxychloroquine. Folks were looking for anything that would provide and benefit and that showed promise,” Ratliff says. “Remdisivir is what’s being recommended now.”
Neither drug has been extensively tested. It’s not clear to experts if one is better than the other. The only clues to helping patients depend on patient health, speed, and costs.