The US Buys Nearly All Of Remdesivir
The US manufacturer Gilead’s Covid-19 treatment remdesivir is being bought by the US in a large quantity of nearly all the next three months’ projected production remdesivir.
For the use of the COVID-19 drug remdesivir in American hospitals, the US health department had agreed to buy 500,000 doses, according to their announcement on Tuesday.
Though it is not yet clear if the drug improves survival rates, tests suggest that remdesivir cuts recovery times. Around $2,340 (£1,900) will be the cost for a course of treatment in the US.
Alex Azar, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement, “To make sure Americans have access to the first authorized therapeutic for Covid-19, President Trump has struck an amazing deal.”
The project for making the drug outside the US is still in its early, and for distribution in 127 mostly poorer countries, around nine companies can make the drug under license outside the US and the cost is lower. Moreover, for the use of the drugs in clinical trials, additional quantities are being manufactured.
Given that other countries have taken part in remdesivir trials, the international co-operation on COVID-19 is undermined by the US move to buy up so much stock from Gilead, said the critics.
Prof Peter Horby from Oxford University said, “The trail that allowed remdesivir to be sold as a drug against COVID-19 had patients participating internationally, through other European countries, in the UK, and Mexico and other places, and was not just in the US.”
Ohid Yaqub, Senior Sussex University lecturer said, “The chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights and an unwillingness to co-operate with other countries is portrayed clearly by this move.”
As the development of remdesivir was helped with the funding from taxpayer money, some people in the US have criticized the purchase price.
However, it must also be noted that the highest number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 has been recorded in the US and must remember that Gilead is a US company, though there is international concern about the US buying up almost all supplies of remdesivir.
According to US law, during a public health emergency, the export of drugs considered essential to the treatment of patients can be banned, and there are similar legal provisions in many other countries, including the UK. In extremis, Gilead’s intellectual property rights could be ignored by countries through a compulsory licensing mechanism, and the countries’ own generic versions of the drug can be manufactured.
With the aim of producing the drug for use in developing nations, Gilead has put in place voluntary licensing agreements with a number of manufacturers around the world.
However, the US deal will inevitably mean that there will be a short supply of this drug – one of only two that have so far been of proven benefit for patients who are seriously ill with Covid-19 – in many other countries for the next three months at least. However, for the patients who need it in the UK, the country says it currently has sufficient stocks.
In combating COVID-19, the US is among the many countries to approve remdesivir. According to Germany’s health ministry, the European Union is expected to give approval this week. Germany expects to be able to acquire more of the drug from Gilead in the future and says that currently, it has sufficient supplies of the drug.