New Jersey is set to receive 4,400 vials of remdesivir, the only drug so far proven to help patients with the coronavirus, from the federal government to help manage the nation’s second-largest outbreak, the state’s top health official announced Saturday.

The news came shortly after President Donald Trump’s administration announced its plans for distributing the drug to hard-hit areas.

New Jersey will receive 110 cases, each with 40 vials, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

Persichilli added that he department is working with the state’s 71 hospitals on “a distribution plan that will be equitable and consistent to where the greatest need is.”

“Remdesivir is an antiviral that improves the time of recovery from 15 days to 11 days,” she said during the state’s daily coronavirus press briefing in Trenton. “That proves that this drug can block the virus.”

The U.S. Health and Human Service Department announced it will ship 14,400 vials of the drugs across the country. The drug’s maker, Gilead, has donated 607,000 vials to the federal government, which the department said is enough to treat 78,000 patients nationwide.

The drug was created by Gilead Sciences as a potential treatment for hepatitis C and later ebola.

Gov. Phil Murphy joked about one thing.

“I’m just wondering if we could petition the manufacturers of Remdesivir to change the name to something like “Pill,” Murphy said during the state’s briefing. “It could roll off the tongue a little more easily.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the drug emergency use authorization, which is different from full approval. The FDA grants emergency use authorization after evaluating available evidence and balancing potential risks with possible benefits.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) conducted a clinical trial that involved 1,063 patients that began on Feb. 21, and found that patients who took remdesivir had a 31% faster recovery time than those who received a placebo.

The data was not sufficient to determine if the drug was associated with lower mortality, the federal Health and Human Service Department said.

New Jersey, a densely populated state of 9 million residents, has reported at least 9,116 deaths attributed to COVID-19, with at least 136,085 total cases, in a little more than nine weeks.

State officials Saturday confirmed another 166 deaths and 1,759 new positive tests. Only New York has more cases among American states.

Officials said the number of cases and hospitalizations in the state is dropping. But there were still 4,628 coronavirus patients hospitalized as of Friday night. And Murphy said residents need to keep practicing social distancing — and remain under his stay-at-home orders — to prevent numbers from surging again.

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Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Rebecca Panico may be reached at rpanico@njadvancemedia.com.

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