Gilead sets price for five-day coronavirus treatment at $3,120

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A five-day course of a COVID-19 treatment will cost private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid $3,120 per patient,  Gilead Sciences announced Monday.

Other developed countries and direct purchasers in the U.S. government, including the Veterans Affairs hospitals, will pay $2,340 for a five-day course of remdesivir, which has shown in clinical trials to reduce the time to recovery for patients with COVID-19. Gilead clarified in a statement Monday afternoon the smaller price would only apply to direct purchasers in the federal government and not government-run health plans, like Medicaid and Medicare. 

Gilead Chairman and CEO Daniel O’Day said in an open letter that the prices are below the actual value of the drug in order to provide “broad and equitable access.”

“As with many other aspects of this pandemic, we are in unchartered territory in pricing remdesivir,” he wrote. “Ultimately, we were guided by the need to do things differently. As the world continues to reel from the human, social and economic impact of this pandemic, we believe that pricing remdesivir well below value is the right and responsible thing to do.”

“At the level we have priced remdesivir and with government programs in place, along with additional Gilead assistance as needed, we believe all patients will have access,” O’Day wrote.

O’Day also wrote that Gilead entered into agreements with generic drug manufacturers in developing countries, where health care resources, infrastructure and economies are “so different,” to deliver the treatment at a “substantially lower cost.”

“These alternative solutions are designed to ensure that all countries in the world can provide access to treatment,” he wrote.

The drug has shown promise in treating coronaviruses in clinical trials. Patients given remdesivir in an international study recovered 31 percent faster than patients given a placebo; however, it did not have a significant effect on death rates.

Congressional Democrats who have been pushing for commitments that COVID-19 drugs be affordable argued the price is too high and taxpayers have already paid millions of dollars for its development. 

Remdesivir was developed 10 years ago as a potential treatment for Ebola, but it was found to be ineffective. 

“An outrageous price for a very modest drug, which taxpayer funding saved from a scrapheap of failures,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), chairman of the Ways & Means health subcommittee. 

“President Trump’s refusal to stop pandemic profiteering with a stroke of a pen is a green light to other manufacturers to exploit this tragedy. In addition, taxpayers will be charged billions more for the same medications that they have already paid significantly for drugmakers to develop. Big prices and big expenditures lie ahead.”  

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced Monday it entered an agreement with Gilead to allocate 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir to U.S. hospitals for purchase through September.

A senior HHS official emphasized in a call with reporters Monday that the agency did not buy the drugs, but it will allocate it to hospitals based on how many COVID-19 patients are being treated at the facilities. 

Updated at 5:39 pm.

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus treatment COVID-19 Donald Trump Gilead Lloyd Doggett Remdesivir

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