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Coronavirus: Too early to discuss pricing of remdesivir, says US' Department of Health

ANI | Updated: May 28, 2020 11:37 IST

Washington DC [USA], May 28 (ANI): The Department of Health and Human Services has said that it is too early to discuss the pricing of 'remdesivir', the drug which has raised everyone's hopes of treating the coronavirus">coronavirus.
The department has however noted that US government has regularly reimbursed hospitals and other providers for treating people with no health insurance, the Washington Post reported.
So Gilead, the creator of the drug 'remdesivir' will be donating the first 1.5 million doses to governments worldwide which according to Gilead will be enough for about 140,000 patients through the end of May.
More than half of it has been targeted for the patients in US.
When the coronavirus">coronavirus pandemic first struck the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) also identified remdesivir as one of the potential treatments for the disease.
The drug also managed to shorten hospital visits by four days and reduced mortality rate from 11.6 per cent to 8 per cent.
However, Anthony S. Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said these results were modest and there was no significant reduction in deaths.
However, Jordon , the former Gilead researcher was happy with the results remdesivir showed.
"I was very excited about that. This isn't a home run. It's clinical evidence that you can improve outcomes with an antiviral. The fact that we can do something to this disease, that's a great start," Washington Post quoted Jordon as saying.

Despite the heavy subsidies, federal agencies have not asserted patent rights to Gilead's drug, potentially a blockbuster therapy worth billions of dollars. That means Gilead will have few constraints other than political pressure when it sets a price in the coming weeks. Critics are urging the Trump administration to take a more aggressive approach.

Gilead is also investigating few ways in which the drug can be made in pill form and if that indeed happens, the use of it can be increased by a large scale if the coronavirus">coronavirus goes on to last for a few more years.
Robert Jordon, a scientist who has worked with Gilead for a period of time had also convinced the company seven years ago to allow him to assemble a library of 1,000 castoff molecules in a search for medicines to treat emerging viruses.
"I kept asking them, is this okay? These don't represent a commercial opportunity but a public health opportunity. Gilead gave me their blessing to do this on the side," Jordon said.
But, for help, Jordon needed money and US tax payers came to the rescue. Three federal health agencies were also involved in the development of remdesivir and went on to provide tens of millions of dollars of government research.
Now that government had a big role to play in the development of the drug, political showdown is likely to happen over the potential pricing and access.
Despite hevay subsidies, federal agencies have not yet asserted patent rights to the drug and this means that Gilead will be having few constraints when it decides to set up the price of remdesivir.
Gilead has earlier faced price criticism when it decided to price its hepatitis C drug Solvaldi at USD 84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment in 2013.
Gilead tackles viral targets, so over the years it has worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute of Health (NIH).
In 2009, GS-441524, the parent compound of remdesivir's was invented when Gilead was looking for drugs to treat hepatitis C, according to Gilead, the Washington Post reported.
In 2013, Jordan -- who now works at Meissa Vaccines, a California start-up -- sent some samples of GS-441524 to CDC scientist Michael Lo in Atlanta for testing against Nipah virus, a bat-borne disease found in parts of Asia.
The compound had then just showed promise not just against Nipah but also as a broad-spectrum antiviral.
In 2014, Michael Lo had said he was examining a readout from CDC's laboratory tests of the compound that showed the drug indeed had a strong effect against Ebola virus in lab containers.
He also said that government patents were not discussed at that time and such decisions were above his pay grade. (ANI)