The drug could previously only be used to treat patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19. It was one of the drugs used to treat former president Donald Trump when he caught COVID in the fall of 2020.
The approval comes around the same time that the omicron variant surge is nearing its peak in Oregon, according to health experts, pushing many of the state's hospitals close to capacity.
"Remdesivir is a drug that acts to slow down the virus once it gets in the body," said Dr. Richard Mularski, a physician and researcher at Kaiser Permanente Northwest.
He said the importance of remdesivir has been magnified by the fact that two of the three types of monoclonal antibody treatments have proven ineffective against omicron.
"Everything we can do to keep people out of hospitals right now is very important because I think that is the most constrained part of our health care system, is hospital bed availability and ICUs and ventilators," Dr. Mularski said.
Mularski said he's seen remdesivir work to slow the virus in hospital patients and believes it will be effective for outpatient treatment, especially for those with suppressed or compromised immune systems.
However, getting remdesivir to patients could still be a challenge on its own, he said — especially because it's in short supply.
"They (remdesivir doses) have to be given in an observed setting and so they take up health care resources, and those are quite limited. So everyone's struggling both with availability of drugs and with being able to get drugs into people's arms," Mularski said.