[Ip-health] AP: Health experts slam US deal for large supply of virus drug

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Jul 2 07:39:33 PDT 2020


Health experts slam US deal for large supply of virus drug

By MARIA CHENG yesterday

LONDON (AP) — Public health experts on Wednesday criticized the U.S. for
securing a large supply of the only drug licensed so far to treat COVID-19.

The U.S. government announced this week that it had an agreement with
Gilead Sciences to make the bulk of their production of remdesivir for the
next three months available to Americans. The Department of Health and
Human Services said it had secured 500,000 treatments through September,
which amounts to all but 10% of production in August and September.

“To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who
needs remdesivir can get it,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar
said in a statement.


Until now, Gilead had donated the drug. That ended Tuesday and Gilead this
week set the price for new shipments at $2,300 to $3,100 per treatment
course. The company is allowing generic makers to supply the drug at much
lower prices to 127 poor or middle-income countries.

In a statement Wednesday, the California-based Gilead said its agreement
with the U.S. allows for any unneeded supplies to be sent to other
countries. The company said it is “working as quickly as possible” to
enable access worldwide. But it noted that U.S. is seeing a significant
rise in COVID-19 cases, while “most EU and other developed countries have
reduced their levels of disease considerably.”


President Donald Trump signs his name on a piece of paper during a
roundtable with governors on the reopening of America's small businesses,
in the State Dining Room of the White House, Thursday, June 18, 2020, in
Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, declined to
criticize the United States for the move. He said the U.K. had a
“sufficient stock” of remdesivir for patients who need it, but didn’t
specify how much that was.

Thomas Senderovitz, head of the Danish Medicines Agency, told Danish
broadcaster DR that the move could endanger Europeans and others down the

Dr. Michael Ryan, the emergencies chief of the World Health Organization,
said the agency was looking into the implications of the U.S. deal for

“There are many people around the world who are very sick .... and we want
to ensure that everybody has access to the necessary, life-saving
interventions.” He said WHO was “fully committed” to working toward
equitable access for such treatments.

Gilead had been developing remdesivir for years as a viral treatment, with
millions in U.S. funding, before it was tried for coronavirus. The consumer
group Public Citizen estimates that at least $70 million in U.S. public
funding went to develop remdesivir.

On Wednesday, Gilead said its supply of remdesivir should increase by the
end of September and meet global demand after that. It said some countries
should have enough for current needs, from the supply they received for
patient testing and other programs.

Gilead has said it expects to spend more than $1 billion by year’s end on
testing and manufacturing of remdesivir.

Dr. Penny Ward of King’s College London, noted that many countries have
legal provisions that allow them to prohibit the exportation of drugs to
other countries during an emergency.

“It is unreasonable to expect that the U.S. government should deny their
population access to drugs manufactured in the USA,” she said.

Ward pointed out that another drug that may help people with severe
COVID-19, the cheap steroid dexamathasone, is long off-patent and available

The U.S. has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, with 2.6 million
reported infected and 127,000 confirmed virus-related deaths, according to
a tally by Johns Hopkins University. To date, COVID-19 has sickened more
than 10.5 million people worldwide, killing around 512,000, according [to]
Johns Hopkins.

Numerous countries including Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands and the
U.S. have struck deals with drugmakers to have millions of doses of
experimental vaccines delivered before they are licensed. British
politicians have said if a vaccine currently being developed by Oxford
University and manufactured by AstraZeneca is proven to work, Britons will
be first in line to get it.


AP writers Jill Lawless in London, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen and Linda A.
Johnson in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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