A bipartisan group of state attorneys general is urging the federal government to sidestep the patents held by Gilead Sciences (GILD) for remdesivir, the only authorized treatment for Covid-19, over frustration with pricing and supplies set by the manufacturer.
In arguing their case, the state officials maintain Gilead has been “unable to assure” a sufficient supply of the medication to hospitals across the U.S. and has “[placed] its profit margins” over patients by charging the federal government $2,340 for a five-day treatment course, even though U.S. taxpayer dollars contributed to the discovery of the drug and manufacturing costs are reportedly low.
“Remdesivir has benefited from millions of dollars of public funding,” the group, comprised of dozens of attorneys general, wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services. “But despite the large infusion of taxpayer monies, Gilead is unable to guarantee a supply of remdesivir sufficient to alleviate the health and safety needs of the country amid the pandemic.” The Public Citizen advocacy group recently estimated that U.S. taxpayers contributed $70.5 million to discovering the drug.
The US Government would need to issue a compulsory license to overcome Gilead’s patents. However, unless there is a manufacturer ready to supply remdesivir, a compulsory license won’t mean anything. It’s unlikely that any company would invest in manufacturing pharmaceutical-grade remdesivir drug products for the US with uncertainty about a market.
Would it have been good for the US to condition its $70 million in remdesivir on some price benefit? Maybe, but that’s small change to Gilead and they might not have gone for the deal. It’s certainly unreasonable for the US to try to impose conditions after-the-fact.
The smart purchaser would invest in alternative repurposing opportunities, like dexamethasone, to push Gilead to lower the price of remdesivir.
It’s also possible that Gilead’s price is reasonable, all things considered, and we should focus on other things.
“Sidestep”? That’s a code word for “steal”. Why don’t we ever hear from these people before the money is spent on clinical trials, building the manufacturing infrastructure, etc.?
Do keep in mind that Remdesivir is difficult to manufacture. Would it be more reasonable for Gilead contract with other pharma to manufacture Remdesivir? But even that would not increase the number of vials available anytime soon. Is there a way of lessening the time for manufacturing yet keeping good quality control. My guess is that Gilead is doing the best they can.
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