Gilead Science releases pricing plan for COVID-19 drug Remdesivir

Gilead Prices Covid-19 Drug Candidate Remdesivir at $2,340 Per Patient in US

Gilead Sciences Inc has priced its COVID-19 drug candidate remdesivir at $2,340 for a five-day treatment in the United States and some other developed countries, potentially reflecting looming competition from a cheap steroid.

The amount that patients pay out of pocket depends on insurance, income and other factors, the California-based pharmaceutical company said.

HHS said it secured more than 500,000 remdesivir courses for United States hospitals through September, which represents all of Gilead's projected production for July and 90% of its production in August and September, in addition to an allocation for clinical trials, HHS said.

Gilead also said Monday it had reached agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services to manage the allocation of remdesivir in the US through September. "We priced it at the value, at the price that allows for access across the developed world".

One vial of the drug Remdesivir lies during a press conference about the start of a study with the Ebola drug Remdesivir in particularly severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf in Hamburg, northern Germany on April 8, 2020, amidst the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Trials produced encouraging results earlier this year when it showed promise for both preventing and treating MERS - another coronavirus - in macaque monkeys.

Remdesivir is a viral RNA polymerase inhibitor which means that it interferes with the production of viral genetic material, preventing the virus from multiplying.

That, in turn, stops the virus from being able to proliferate further inside the patient's body. The company balanced the decision with its "longer-term responsibilities: to continue with our ongoing work on remdesivir, to maintain our long-term research in antivirals and to invest in scientific innovation that might help generations to come", he said. For example, India's Cipla and Hetero Labs have launched generic versions in their home country at around $70 per vial.

Remdesivir's price has been highly anticipated since it became the first medicine to show benefit in the pandemic, which has killed more 500,000 people globally in six months. In a U.S. government-led study, remdesivir shortened recovery time by 31 percent - 11 days on average versus 15 days for those given just usual care.

It had not improved survival according to preliminary results after two weeks of followup.

This is below the US$5,080 per course recommendation by USA drug pricing research group, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, last week. However, if low-priced steroid dexamethasone-which made a big splash recently with preliminary data-does deliver peer-reviewed data showing it can save the lives of seriously ill patients, remdesivir's price should drop to the range of $2,520 to $2,800, according to ICER. The price sets a benchmark for all other treatments and vaccines in development for Covid-19, which shows profit is possible though it may not be as large as some had hoped.

'Given the serious nature of the pandemic, I would prefer that the government take over production and distribute the drug for free.

Peter Maybarduk, an attorney at the consumer group Public Citizen, called the price 'an outrage'.

'The price puts to rest any notion that drug companies will "do the right thing" because it is a pandemic, ' Dr Peter Bach, a health policy expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY said.

In 2019, the company defended what many called "price-gouging" for its HIV drug Truvada to a House committee, claiming the high cost pays for the research behind its development, the Washington Post reported past year.

Analysts at Royal Bank of Canada said they saw revenue potential of $2.3 billion from the drug in 2020, helping offset more than $1 billion in development and distribution costs.

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