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Remdesivir is being used in 'severe' COVID cases for kids under 12, even though it's not yet fully FDA-approved for them

Doctors gave Julie Haas remdesivir to treat her COVID pneumonia, but the catch – it’s only FDA approved for kids 12 and older. Julie is 6.

HOUSTON — On Wednesday, KHOU 11 told you about a little girl with COVID pneumonia.

It was so bad, she had to be hospitalized. Now we’re taking a closer look at the treatment that helped get her home.

Remdesivir is an infusion of drugs. It’s an anti-viral medication and works by stopping the virus from spreading in the body, but doctors say it’s best to use it early on for it to have the most impact.

Hospitalized with COVID pneumonia, 6-year-old Julie Haas was having a hard time getting better so doctors wanted to try something different.

“They came in and discussed the option of an experimental treatment," said Holly Haas, Julie's mom.

Desperate to help her little girl, Holly said yes, so she said doctors gave Julie remdesivir.

But the catch – it’s only FDA approved for kids 12 and older, and Julie’s 6.

“You can actually find case reports of infants having received it," said Michael Chang, MD at UTHealth

Dr. Chang, assistant professor of pediatrics at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, said the FDA has granted emergency use authorization for kids under 12 who are hospitalized.

“You want to try to use all the tools that you think you have that can help that child," Dr. Chang said.

He said the first treatment would be steroids, but then a doctor might try remdesivir.

“I think the remdesivir has potentially benefit in specific situations, but don’t think every patient should expect a dramatic improvement in how they’re feeling," Dr. Chang said.

But Dr. Amy Arrington at Texas Children's Hospital in Katy said a child has to first be a candidate.

“A child that comes in that’s classified as severe COVID-19 disease, so any child on oxygen or escalating support," Dr. Arrington said.

But she said the majority of those children who are severe do get remdesivir, and she said it's hard to know exactly how well it works in kids. Studies have only been done on adults, and Dr. Arrington said that data show a decrease in hospitalization.

“Hopefully it helps kids from getting sicker and ending up in the ICU with me, but those studies are ongoing and yet to have the results published," Dr. Arrington said.

But for Julie, something worked, because the very next day, she went home.

“It was just amazing. Amazing. Amazing," Holly said.

Remdesivir is not a new drug, but the emergency use in children is. Dr. Chang said it was granted during the pandemic and can only be used against the COVID-19 virus.