Story at a glance
- The Trump administration announced this week the U.S. struck an agreement with Gilead to secure more than 500,000 treatment courses of the drug for American hospitals through September.
- Gilead will sell 100 percent of its supply for July to the U.S. and 90 percent of the supply produced in August and September.
- The move by the U.S., however, leaves a large part of the world without access to the drug.
The U.S. has bought nearly the entire global supply of the antiviral drug remdesivir, the only treatment licensed to treat COVID-19, as the nation continues to experience surging cases of coronavirus.
The drug manufactured by Gilead Sciences has been shown to help moderately ill COVID-19 patients recover more quickly from the disease and was granted temporary approval for coronavirus patients by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in early May.
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The Trump administration announced this week the U.S. struck an agreement with Gilead to secure more than 500,000 treatment courses of the drug for American hospitals through September.
Remdesivir will be sold for $520 per vial in the U.S., or $3,120 per treatment course, to hospitals for treatment of patients with private health insurance, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Gilead Sciences. The price will be set at $2,340 per treatment course for patients on government-sponsored insurance and for those in countries with national health care systems.
“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorized therapeutic for COVID-19,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
“To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it. The Trump Administration is doing everything in our power to learn more about life-saving therapeutics for COVID-19 and secure access to these options for the American people,” Azar said.
Gilead will sell 100 percent of its supply for July to the U.S. and 90 percent of the supply produced in August and September.
The move by the U.S., however, leaves a large part of the world without access to the treatment.
“They’ve got access to most of the drug supply [of remdesivir], so there’s nothing for Europe,” Andrew Hill, senior visiting research fellow at Liverpool University, told The Guardian.
“This is the first major approved drug, and where is the mechanism for access? Once again we’re at the back of the queue,” he said.
Ohid Yaqub, a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex, called it disappointing news.
“It so clearly signals an unwillingness to cooperate with other countries and the chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights,” Yaqub said, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Hill told The Guardian that the UK could get access to remdesivir through a compulsory license, which overrides the intellectual property rights of the company. This would allow the UK to purchase from generic companies in Bangladesh or India where Gilead’s patent is not recognized. Gilead Sciences is allowing generic manufacturers in 127 poor or middle-income countries to supply the drug.
The U.S. currently leads the world in coronavirus cases, with more than 2.6 million confirmed and 512,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Brazil has the second highest number of cases worldwide with more than 1.4 million, followed by Russia with more than 653,000. India has tallied more than 585,000 and the UK more than 314,000.
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