Gilead Dragged for "Price-Gouging" New COVID-19 Treatment

Henrietta Brewer
June 30, 2020

The price, which comes to $520 a vial, would apply to commercially insured patients in the USA, according to a letter from Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day posted on the company's website Monday.

Furthermore, the letter noted that because of the discounts expected by government health care programs, the price for private insurance companies will be $520 per vial, resulting in an estimated $3120 for a typical USA patient.

Gilead on Monday announced it is charging Medicare and other government health programs in developed countries $390 per vial, or $2,340 per patient under a six-vial course of treatment.

On April 29, Gilead Sciences announced positive data in the clinical trial of remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19. It is also still in the clinical trial process, with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval still pending.

"This is a high price for a drug that has not been shown to reduce mortality", Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic said in an email. According to the company, it will continue to invest in ramping up production of the drug to meet demand.

Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer rights group, said the drug should cost $1 a day if in a generic form, Bloomberg reported. Even just considering these immediate savings to the healthcare system alone, we can see the potential value that remdesivir provides. "We are aware of the significant responsibility that comes with pricing remdesivir, and the need to be transparent on our decision". "How can our system allow a company to take a drug treatment that was developed with taxpayer funds and abuse its monopoly to charge such astronomical prices?" "Based on current treatment patterns, the vast majority of patients are expected to receive a 5-day treatment course using 6 vials of remdesivir, which equates to $2,340 per patient", O'Day added.

It said it chose to charge governments a flat fee to "remove the need for country by country negotiations on price".

Hospital patients receiving the shortest course of remdesivir would be charged $520 per dose, or $3,120 for the shortest treatment course.

The prices are roughly in line with those an influential USA drug cost watchdog pegged on the drug in its latest cost-effectiveness analysis, but came below the sticker Wall Street was expecting.

However, for private insurance companies in the US, the cost is $520, or $3,120 for the five vials.

The administration chose to oversee distribution of remdesivir to ensure that the drug is available "equally and fairly to all patients in American hospitals", regardless of where in the country they live or what hospital they visit, a senior HHS official said.

In the USA, federal health officials have allocated the limited supply to states, but that agreement with Gilead will end after September.

Health Secretary Alex Azar said the deal with Gilead Sciences will ensure a steady supply of remdesivir for American hospitals through September.

Gilead has entered into agreements with generic manufacturers in developing countries to deliver treatment at a substantially lower cost. "These alternative solutions are created to ensure that all countries in the world can provide access to treatment".

There are now more cases of COVID-19 in the United States than in Europe, with several US states hitting new records for numbers of cases.

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