Gilead sets USA price for COVID-19 treatment

Henrietta Strickland
June 30, 2020

Japan approved the use of remdesivir for coronavirus patients in May.

Just days after getting conditional approval for its coronavirus drug remdesivir in Europe, Gilead has announced pricing for the USA and other developed countries, charging different rates for the US federal government and private insurers.

The drug maker said Monday that price would be for people covered by government health programs in the United States and other developed countries.

In a Monday statement, Gilead said it would charge different prices for the drug if it was paid for by public or private insurance, arguing that its prices are justified by the enormous savings an earlier recovery from COVID-19 will provide. But recent news that a cheap steroid called dexamethasone improves survival means remdesivir should be priced between US$2520 ($3677) and US$2800 ($4086), the group said.

The medicine could yield substantial profits for Gilead if large quantities are needed for many months, as seems likely.

Gilead has entered into agreements with generic manufacturers in developing countries to deliver treatment at a substantially lower cost. The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) last week said remdesivir would be cost-effective at a price range of $4580 to $5080 if it saved lives. "We started with our immediate responsibility to ensure price is in no way a hindrance to ensuring rapid and broad treatment".

"Remdesivir should be in the public domain" because the drug received at least US$70 million ($102 million) in public funding toward its development, he said.

"The first results from the NIAID study in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 showed that remdesivir shortened time to recovery by an average of four days", the company said.

The Food and Drug Administration gave remdesivir emergency use authoriztion for COVID-19, even though the antiviral is considered investigational and it is still being studied.

Health Secretary Alex Azar said the deal with Gilead Sciences will ensure a steady supply of remdesivir for American hospitals through September.

It wasn't immediately clear how many US patients would qualify for the lower price beyond those treated at facilities operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To date, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 125,000 million Americans, according to The New York Times.

The US biopharmaceutical company said it would offer a one-price model to avoid the need for country-by-country negotiations that could slow down access.

The price changes for private insurers, however.

The Department of Health and Human Service announced an agreement on Monday to secure more than 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir through September.

Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer rights group, said the drug should cost $1 a day if in a generic form, Bloomberg reported.

The company is developing an inhaled version that could be used outside a hospital setting.

"Gilead did not make this drug alone", he said. For cases that take longer to treat, the total cost could be $4.290.

"I do not think remdesivir data are worth this price or the hype it has gotten", Inmaculada Hernandez, an assistant professor of pharmacy and therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh, said in an email. Because most patients are expected to receive a 5-day treatment course using 6 vials, this equates to approximately $2340 per patient.

Gilead agreed to donate its supply of remdesivir through the end of June, but it announced it will begin charging for the antiviral drug in July. Two countries are doing that for about $600 for each treatment.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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