U.S. hoards global stock of COVID-19 drug remdesivir

Cheryl Sanders
July 2, 2020

Public health experts on Wednesday criticized the US for securing a large supply of the only drug licensed so far to treat COVID-19.

The US health department announced on Tuesday it had agreed to buy 500,000 doses for use in American hospitals. Several critics recalled the exuberance with which President Trump promoted hydroxychloroquine- which eventually proved a dud - and pointed out that Dexamethasone, a cheap steroid that has been around for decades and costs a fraction of remdesivir, is also proven to reduce the death rate among hospitalized patients.

A course of treatment in the United States will cost $2,340.

Remdesivir is expected to be in high demand as one of the only treatments shown to alter the course of Covid-19.

Ohid Yaqub, a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex, called the USA agreement "disappointing news".

The HHS, in a press release, said it has secured almost 500,000 remdesivir courses for hospitals in the United States through September, according to a report by India Today.

"To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it".

The agreements allow the companies - Cipla Ltd.; Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd.; Eva Pharma; Ferozsons Laboratories; Hetero Labs Ltd.; Jubilant Lifesciences; Mylan; Syngene, a Biocon company; and Zydus Cadila Healthcare Ltd. - to manufacture remdesivir for distribution in 127 countries.

"I have never seen anything like that". Criticism of the United States policy came from Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Australia, among others.

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

"We are fully committed as an organization, and with our partners to equitable access to life saving interventions", he added.

The move is in keeping with the Trump administration's "America first" buzzword towards the global pandemic and raises concerns about what the administration will do if and when a vaccine is developed.

"The government welcomes the donation of remdesivir to the National Medical Stockpile from Gilead, which will be available for use in eligible patients prescribed by a medical practitioner", the spokesperson said. The U.S.is seeing about 40,000 new cases a day now.

But a scarcity of remdesivir is probable while Gilead works to ramp up production.

The company manufactured the drug under World Trade Organisation "TRIPS" provisions, which allow authorities in the least developed countries to issue compulsory licences in certain scenarios. To date, COVID-19 has sickened more than 10.5 million people worldwide, killing around 512,000, according Johns Hopkins.

In earlier stages of the pandemic, the USA refused to export pre-ordered masks to other countries, including neighbouring Canada, and reportedly paid off planes delivering ventilators that were originally destined for other countries.

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