Pennsylvania uses 'weighted lottery' to distribute lifesaving remdesivir in favor of low-income patients

Posted 4 days ago


The antiviral drug remdisivir has been effective in treating COVID-19, reducing risk of death for severely ill patients by 62 percent. It is also scarce, leaving a number of states in fear of running out as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country.

As a solution to this problem, Pennsylvania is encouraging healthcare providers to use a “weighted lottery” system to decide which patients are treated with this lifesaving drug and who goes without. Instead of medical need being the deciding factor of who receives a drug, this lottery is weighted in favor of those who sit lower on the socioeconomic spectrum.

Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, is concerned that this move is not being given proper attention and could have huge implications for the health care system moving forward.

“They've decided to do some social engineering and tilt the scales and make sure that the drug goes to people who live in low-income areas in preference to patients, maybe in the same ICU with the same medical problems, who live in a nicer neighborhood,” McCaughey told Fox News.

McCaughey says this sort of “redistributive medicine” could have serious ramifications if adopted by more states and in more areas of health care. Hospitals face drug shortages all the time, like the widely used vincristine for childhood cancer. McCaughey worries that if this sort of tipping of the scales becomes normal practice it is the middle class who will suffer.

“I don't think we should be rationing scarce medical resources against the middle class. We've got to treat everybody the same. They're starting with remdesivir but this is only the beginning,” she said.

The rationale behind this new system is to “redress inequities that make health and safety less accessible to disadvantaged groups,” says the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “One strategy to accomplish this is to use a metric like the... (Read more)