Health experts slam US deal for large supply of virus drug (Source Associated Press)
The U.S. government announced this week that it had an agreement with Gilead Sciences to make the bulk of their production of remdesivir for the next three months available to Americans. The Department of Health and Human Services said it had secured 500,000 treatments through September, which amounts to all but 10% of production in August and September. “To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. Ohid Yaqub, a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex, called the U.S. agreement “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 in a statement Until now, Gilead had donated the drug. That ended Tuesday and Gilead this week set the price for new shipments at $2,300 to $3,100 per treatment course. The company is allowing generic makers to supply the drug at much lower prices to 127 poor or middle-income countries. In a statement Wednesday, the California-based Gilead said its agreement with the U.S. allows for any unneeded supplies to be sent to other countries. The company said it is “working as quickly as possible” to enable access worldwide. But it noted that U.S. is seeing a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, while “most EU and other developed countries have reduced their levels of disease considerably.” Early studies testing remdesivir in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 found that those who received the treatment recovered quicker than those who didn’t. It is the only drug licensed by both the U.S. and the European Union as a treatment for those with severe illness from the coronavirus.