"Time's not on our side" HFD family hopes for experimental COVID drug

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Firefighter's family is asking for prayers and an experimental drug
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Firefighter's family is asking for prayers and an experimental drug.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- HFD veteran Tommy Searcy's condition is worsening inside an ICU room at Memorial Hermann Hospital in The Woodlands. Now his medical team may be running out of options.

The fire union tells ABC13 a ventilator is helping Searcy breathe while an ECMO machine scrubs his blood.

"It doesn't appear to be positive news," union president Marty Lancton said, "The word we're getting from his brother, Tony is that doctors are becoming worried, and that's never a good thing when someone is battling this virus."

Last week when he was moved to the ICU, the union asked for prayers for Searcy in a social media post.

Tonight, they are asking for more. Searcy's family, doctors and union leaders are all hoping for approval to use an experimental drug that has shown promise helping relieve COVID-19 symptoms in patients lungs and air sacs.

The drug, RLF-100 (Aviptadil) made by Neuro-RX, is not yet approved by the FDA. It is in a fast-track study at four hospitals nationwide and has "shown promise" according to the company.

The Houston Methodist Hospital is one of the sites, but Searcy is at Memorial Hermann. His doctors are racing against time and COVID-19's unrelenting grip to get approval before Searcy declines any more.

In a letter to the company Monday, the Houston Professional Firefighters Association asked the company for humanitarian access to the drug.

The company tells ABC13 it has already been in touch with Searcy's medical team and is awaiting final paperwork from Searcy's doctors. The process is not an easy one. Searcy's physician and Memorial Hermann have to sign off on its use before asking the company for the medication.

The company vows to get it as soon as the paperwork is completed.

"Right now, this is what he [Searcy] needs," Lancton said. "Time is not on our side. We just need to ensure we give Captain Searcy the best chance to fight this."

Pausing for a moment to reflect on a very difficult few weeks for the Houston Fire Department, Lancton was overcome, "We've already buried two firefighters. We don't want to bury a third."

UPDATE: HFD Captain Tommy Searcy's doctors received the experimental medicine early Tuesday morning. Searcy's doctors, family, Memorial Hermann hospital, Methodist Hospital and Neuro RX, the drug's manufacturer worked late into Monday evening to get final approvals.

Once the paperwork was approved, fire fighter's union leaders raced the medicine under emergency escort from the med center to The Woodlands, where Searcy is in Intensive Care.

"Now we pray," union president Marty Lancton told ABC13.

Dr. Jonathan C Javitt, Neuro RX's CEO & Chairman told ABC13 in a written statement, "Our team at NeuroRx is doing everything possible to make this drug available to the Searcy family. The FDA created an expanded access pathway specifically for these situations with the strong encouragement of Congress. All that is required is for the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of a qualified hospital to approve the use of an investigational medication according to the FDA approved protocol. Our hopes and prayers are with this firefighter and his family who are now fighting the toughest fire imaginable."

Captain Searcy is a 17 year HFD veteran. He is 45 years old and a father of three. His family said he had no underlying conditions.

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