Health Care

A Multicenter Weighted Lottery to Equitably Allocate Scarce COVID-19 Therapeutics

Peer-reviewed Publication

J. Ryan Bariola, Chung-Chou H. Chang, Naudia N. Jonassaint, Govind Persad, Erin K. McCreary, Parag Pathak, Govind Persad, Mark Schmidhofer, Tayfun Sonmez, Robert D. Truog, M. Utku Ünver, and Douglas B. White

August 2022

Shortages of new therapeutics to treat coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have forced clinicians, public health officials, and health systems to grapple with difficult questions about how to fairly allocate potentially life-saving treatments when there are not enough for all patients in need. Shortages have occurred with remdesivir, tocilizumab, monoclonal antibodies, and the oral antiviral Paxlovid.


Ensuring equitable allocation is especially important in light of the disproportionate burden experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic by disadvantaged groups, including Black, Hispanic/Latino and Indigenous communities, individuals with certain disabilities, and low-income persons. However, many health systems have resorted to first-come, first-served approaches to allocation, which tend to disadvantage individuals with barriers in access to care. There is mounting evidence of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in access to medications for COVID-19.


One potential method to promote equitable allocation is to use a weighted lottery, which is an allocation strategy that gives all eligible patients a chance to receive the scarce treatment while also allowing the assignment of higher or lower chances according to other ethical considerations. The researchers sought to assess the feasibility of implementing a weighted lottery to allocate scarce COVID-19 medications in a large U.S. health system and to determine whether the weighted lottery promotes equitable allocation.