US buys all stocks of coronavirus drug remdesivir

Purchase of some 500,000 treatment courses practically means no other country can buy the drug for the next three months.

The United States has bought nearly all the available global supplies for the next three months of the anti-viral drug remdesivir, one of two drugs that have proven to be effective against COVID-19.

The US Department of Health Services (HHS) announced, on Monday, it had secured more than 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir from drugmaker Gilead Sciences for US hospitals until September.

The stocks make up 100% of Gilead’s projected production for July and 90for August and September each.

“President Trump has struck a fantastic deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorized therapeutic for COVID-19,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

“We want to make sure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it.”

Remdesivir, which is administered intravenously in hospital, is the first medicine to show improvement in COVID-19 patients in formal clinical trials, and current information about its efficacy is closely watched around the world, as nations battle the coronavirus pandemic.

The drug has received full consent by Japanese health regulators. US approval requires a time-consuming Food and Drug Administration review, but Emergency Use Authorizations can be used in a health crisis when other alternatives are not available.

Vials of remdesivir come off the production line at a Gilead Sciences facility in La Verne, California. (Gilead Sciences/Reuters)

“All life-saving drugs should be made available to all parts of the world,” said Dr. Naheed Usmani, president of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA).

She also says that if the vaccine is approved for commercial use, she might be worried about how it will be made available to the developing countries, including Pakistan. Without mass immunization campaigns, the virus will continue to exist and spread across the globe.

Gilead also said it would price remdesivir at $2,340 per patient in the US and other wealthier nations. Gilead has also linked up with generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan, including Cipla Ltd and Hetero Labs Ltd, to make and supply remdesivir in 127 developing countries.

Cipla’s version is priced at less than 5,000 Indian rupees ($66.24/PKR 11,242.83), while Hetero Lab’s version is priced at 5,400 Indian rupees (PKR 12,142.25).

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