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Anti-viral Drug Remdesivir is Cheap, for now

Now that some trial data regarding an anti-viral drug is offering good news about treating COVID-19 and many wonder, how much will it cost?

In the study, participants treated with a drug called remdesivir recovered on average 30 percent quicker than those receiving a placebo.

But only one company owns the drug and will enjoy a foreseeable monopoly.

According to ars Technica:

Remdesivir is owned by Gilead Sciences, a US biotechnology company. Gilead got its first patent for the drug in 2017 when the company was originally targeting it as a possible treatment for the Ebola but it was unsuccessful. But, biochemical similarities in how the Ebola and SARS-CoV-2 viruses function led Gilead to see if remdesivir could be repurposed for treating COVID-19.

Gilead’s patents mean that it has a monopoly on the drug in the United States, so barring government intervention or Gilead licensing the patent to others, it’s the only company that can manufacture it until 2037, at which point a generic version could be possible.

Finally, there’s the question of how much that will cost. As of today, we don’t know how much Gilead intends to charge for remdesivir in the US or elsewhere.

For now, CEO Daniel O’Day revealed that the company “is providing the entirety of its existing stockpile of existing supply at no cost, to treat patients with the most severe symptoms of COVID-19.
The 1.5 million individual doses are available for compassionate use, expanded access, and clinical trials and will be donated for broader distribution following any potential future regulatory authorizations.”

A recent study published in the Journal of Virus Eradication attempts to analyze the cost of manufacturing remdesivir. The authors looked at the chemical synthesis of the drug and concluded that a 10-day course for one person would cost $9, allowing for 20 percent losses during formulation, plus the cost of the vials, a profit margin, and tax.

However, whether it costs Gilead that to actually produce the drug is unknown, and one needn’t be a scholar of the US healthcare system to be skeptical that a novel treatment would end up being quite so cheap.