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COVID Drug Remdesivir Could Cost Up to $3,120 Per Patient, Maker Says

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Jun 29th 2020

new article illustration

MONDAY, June 29, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The maker of remdesivir, the first drug that showed promise in treating coronavirus infections, will charge U.S. hospitals $3,120 for a patient with private insurance, the drug company announced Monday.

Because of how the U.S. health care system is designed and the discounts that government health care programs like the VA and Medicaid will expect, the price for private insurance companies will be $520 per vial, Gilead Sciences explained in a letter. Most COVID-19 patients would need six vials of the drug over five days, the company said.

A lower price -- $390 per vial -- will be offered to other governments in developed countries around the world, Gilead added.

"As the world continues to reel from the human, social and economic impact of this pandemic, we believe that pricing remdesivir well below value is the right and responsible thing to do," Gilead Chairman and CEO Daniel O'Day said in the company's letter.

But the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), a nonprofit that sets benchmarks for fair prescription prices in the United States, said that since more recent studies show dexamethasone -- a cheap steroid -- could save lives among ventilated patients, a fair price for remdesivir might be as low as $2,520. And if the antiviral does not save lives, the drug might be worth as little as $310 a vial, STAT News reported.

In April, U.S. government-led trials of remdesivir showed it shortened recovery time for COVID-19 patients, but it had marginal impact on death rates, the Washington Post reported. Multiple international trials of remdesivir are ongoing, and an inhaled version of the intravenous drug that could be taken outside a hospital setting is also being tested, the company said.

In the developing world, Gilead made agreements with generic manufacturers to produce remdesivir at a significantly lower cost, O'Day said.

In the United States, the price of remdesivir, government programs and additional Gilead assistance when needed should mean that all patients have access to the drug, he said.

The company has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services whereby HHS and states will continue to manage allocation of the drug to hospitals until the end of September. After that, supplies of the drug are expected to increase and HHS will no longer manage allocation.

"Our work on remdesivir is far from done. We continue to explore its potential to help in this pandemic in various ways, such as evaluating treatment earlier in the course of the disease, in outpatient settings, with an inhaled formulation, in additional patient groups and in combination with other therapies," O'Day said.

Remdesivir was developed 10 years ago and was largely funded by taxpayers, according to the Post.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.