Dr. Anoop Maheshwari had been treating COVID-19 patients for more than 12 hours a day. When the 59-year-old pulmonary specialist from Covina contracted the disease himself, he thought it would kill him.
"I talked with my mother, I talked with my wife, I talked with my two children, my sister, father – I talked with everyone," he said. "I told everyone that this was it and I’m not coming home."
Then the doctors at Hoag Hospital began treating Maheshwari with remdesivir, an experimental drug that has appeared to shorten hospital recovery times for severely ill coronavirus patients. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for emergency usage Friday after a study showed that remdesivir helped hospitalized coronavirus patients recover four days faster, on average, than other patients.
The drug’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, said fast work is underway to meet demand.
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"The collaboration with the FDA and [its] commissioner [Stephen] Hahn and the team has been terrific," said Daniel O’Day, Gilead Sciences CEO, on NBC’s The Today Show. "I expect that they’re going to act very quickly, and we are prepared as a company to make sure we get this medicine to as many patients as possible as soon as possible."
Maheshwari said that, though his drug trial was in its preliminary stages, he experienced no side effects and believes remdesivir is worthy of hope.
"I think it is well-founded," he said. "We have to keep in mind that, at this time, we don’t have anything else."
"There's not enough data to statistically conclude that it had helped, but there’s enough anecdotal experience that it gave some hope."
After nine days in the hospital, Maheshwari is back at work, though with easier hours and providing telemedicine for now. Besides remdesivir, he also credits his recovery to prayer, family and the care of a long-time doctor friend to whom he had also said goodbye.
"I could see the tears in his eyes, and I knew he was trying to compose himself," he said. "And he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Annop you have to fight for me."