The manufacturer of a drug that has been shown to reduce recovery time for critically ill COVID-19 patients says that a typical course of treatment for people covered by government health programs in the U.S. and other developed countries will cost $ 2,340 .
Gilead Sciences announced the price for Remdesivir on Monday, saying that the price for patients with private insurance would be $ 3,120. The amount that patients pay out of pocket depends on insurance, income, and other factors.
“We are breaking new ground when it comes to praising a new drug, a novel drug, in a pandemic,” Gilead CEO Dan O’Day told The Associated Press.
“We believe that we really had to deviate from the normal circumstances,” and set the price of the drug to ensure broad access rather than just value for the patient, he said.
However, the price was quickly criticized; One consumer group called it “an outrage” because the taxpayers had invested in their development.
The treatment courses that the company donated to the U.S. and other countries expire in about a week, and prices will then apply to the drug, O’Day said.
In the United States, federal health authorities have given the limited supply to states, but this agreement with Gilead ends after September. They said Monday that the government has secured more than 500,000 additional courses that Gilead will produce from July to supply hospitals through September.
“We should be well supplied … but we need to make sure it’s in the right place at the right time,” said O’Day
Gilead allows generic companies to supply the drug in 127 low- and middle-income countries. Two countries do this for around $ 600 per treatment course.
Remdesivir’s price was eagerly awaited as it was the first drug to benefit from the pandemic, killing more than half a million people worldwide in six months.
The drug affects the coronavirus’ ability to copy its genetic material. In a study conducted by the US government, remdesivir reduced recovery time by 31% – an average of 11 days compared to 15 days in patients who received only the usual care. According to preliminary results, it had not improved survival after two weeks of follow-up; Results after four weeks are expected soon.
The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, a nonprofit group that analyzes drug prices, said remdesivir would be cost-effective in a range of $ 4,580 to 5,080 if it saved lives. However, recent news that a cheap steroid called dexamethasone improves survival means that remdesivir should cost between $ 2,520 and $ 2,800.
“This is a high price for a drug that has not been proven to lower mortality,” said Dr. An email from Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic. “Given the seriousness of the pandemic, I would prefer the government to take over production and distribute the drug for free. It was developed with substantial tax dollars. “
Peter Maybarduk, a lawyer with the Public Citizen consumer group, described the price as “outrage”.
“This is a drug that has received at least $ 70 million in public funding,” he said. “Remdesivir should be in the public domain.”
Gilead says it will have spent $ 1 billion to develop and manufacture the drug by the end of this year.
The drug is approved for emergency use in the United States and Gilead has applied for full approval.