Updated: Jul 5, 2020
Exactly one month ago on June 1st, the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences announced that the anti-viral drug remdesivir had led to “improved clinical outcomes” in patients with COVID-19. The potential for remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 was a beacon of hope for people and communities around the world. Then, two days ago on June 29th, Gilead announced in an open letter the price for remdesivir, placing it at $390 per vial for governments of developed countries. (The U.S. healthcare system, however, will raise the price to $520 per vial for private insurance companies.)
Despite coming this far, the dream of an effective treatment has been put off until as far as September for a large part of the world. The reason?
The United States Department of Health and Human Services has announced that the country has purchased all remdesivir stock for July and 90% of the stock for August and September.
The rest of the world had a better reaction to the pandemic, making the U.S. the most hard-hit country, so it makes sense that the U.S. government would buy so much of the remdesivir stock. However, experts are worried about the effects of this decision on international relations.
In a statement released by the Science Media Center, Dr. Ohid Yaqub, Senior Lecturer at the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, said:
The buying-up of remdesivir is disappointing news, not necessarily because of the shortages it implies for other countries, but because it so clearly signals an unwillingness to co-operate with other countries, and the chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights.
Dr. Yaqub’s concerns are valid. The U.S., by hoarding so much of remdesivir stock, has created tension with European countries hoping to acquire an effective treatment for their patients. While Europe handled the coronavirus much more quickly and efficiently than the United States, the UK and members of the EU still need treatment. Senior visiting research fellow at Liverpool University Dr. Andrew Hill told The Guardian, “They’ve got access to most of the drug supply, so there’s nothing for Europe.”