Gilead’s Price for Drug to Treat Coronavirus Sparks Affordability Questions, Concerns
Remdesivir will cost $2,340 for a five-day course in all developed countries except the U.S., where it will cost $3,120 for the typical patient with private insurance, Gilead Sciences announced on Monday.
By Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder, Staff Writer
A five-day course of the drug Remdesivir is expected to cost upwards of $2,000, the drug’s maker announced Monday.ULRICH PERREY/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
GILEAD SCIENCES’ PRICE tag for its drug that has been used to treat COVID-19 is raising questions and concerns about affordability amid a coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 10 million people and claimed over half a million lives.
Remdesivir will cost $2,340 for a five-day course in all developed countries except the U.S., where it will cost $3,120 for the typical patient with private insurance, the company announced on Monday. Trial results for the drug showed that it reduced the median recovery time for COVID-19 patients by four days, but it did not have a statistically significant impact on mortality rates.
Photos: Hospitals Fighting Coronavirus
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that it has secured more than 500,000 treatment courses of the drug for American hospitals through September, which is nearly all of Gilead’s projected production of the drug for that timeline.
“To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday said that hospitals would “eat the cost” of the treatment, adding that they would turn a profit if patients were able to leave the hospitals faster than anticipated. She said that patients “would be very unlikely to see the cost of the drug” because of the reimbursement process for hospitals.
However, some groups have criticized the price as being too high.
“Today’s news proves that Gilead aims to profiteer off the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ben Wakana, the executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs, said in a statement. “Gilead will realize profits far in excess of its cost to develop and produce a drug that has yet to demonstrate it will save lives. Gilead’s price for remdesivir shows once again that we can’t trust Big Pharma to act responsibly — even in the face of a global pandemic.”
Peter Maybarduk, the director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program, called the price an “offensive display of hubris and disregard for the public.”
Given that remdesivir was developed using some public funding, “allowing Gilead to set the terms during a pandemic represents a colossal failure of leadership by the Trump administration,” Maybarduk said in a statement.
Lawmakers also questioned the cost.
“Taxpayers provided funding for the development of this drug,” Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted. “Now Gilead is price-gouging off it during a pandemic. Beyond disgusting. Coronavirus treatment must be free to all.”
Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, who is the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, similarly questioned the drug’s affordability.
“We need to make sure any treatment that has the potential to save lives is available to all those who need it, not just those who can afford it,” DeGette said in a statement. “We have seen firsthand how the skyrocketing cost of insulin made it inaccessible to millions of Americans who desperately need it. We can’t allow the same thing to happen when it comes to potential treatments for this virus.”
While no coronavirus therapeutics have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it has granted remdesivir an emergency use authorization. The cost of the drug, which is the first shown to help in fighting coronavirus, could set a precedent for future COVID-19 drug developments. Many are also keeping a close eye on developments surrounding dexamethasone, a cheap steroid that was found to reduce mortality rates among severe COVID-19 patients in the U.K.