Pricing Of COVID-19 Drug Remdesivir Showcases Pharma Industry Controversies

There is no guarantee that the pharmaceutical company Gilead will make the coronavirus drug remdesivir affordable. Liam Glen writes on how the pandemic has intensified problems with drug pricing.

Pricing Of COVID-19 Drug Remdesivir Showcases Pharma Industry Controversies

The FDA has approved the drug remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment. While it is no cure, clinical trials suggest that it allows for quicker recovery times.

This offers hope for a disease which doctors have little idea how to effectively treat. And the company that produces remdesivir, Gilead, has offered 1.5 million free doses. But there are fears that once more is needed, the price will rise dramatically.

This problem has been long in the making, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more pressing than ever. Each policy response has its own benefits and drawbacks, but it is simply intolerable for any potentially life-saving medication to be unaffordable.

Possible Prices of Coronavirus Treatments

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review estimates that Gilead could charge as little as $10 for a 10-day remdesivir treatment while still recouping the costs of production, but from a cost-effectiveness approach it would be justified in charging $4,500, assuming that studies prove that remdesivir does have life-saving effects. But according to Politico, investors are pushing the company to charge up to $10,000.

Similarly, if any company successfully develops a COVID-19 vaccine, there is uncertainty over whether it will be affordable, or whether the producer will seek to maximize profits.

This should not be a surprise in the United States, which has far higher drug prices than the rest of the world. This is usually attributed to a mixture of a deregulated pricing system which allows companies to charge whatever they see fit and strict patent laws that prevent competition.

When people need treatment to survive, this means that the cost can become prohibitively high. Former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli faced intense criticism when he attempted to raise the price of the life-saving Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. But the process is often slower and more insidious, such as the steadily rising price of insulin.

The Potential Solutions

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and United States International Development Finance Corporation CEO Adam Boehler, meets with Gilead Sciences, Inc. CEO Daniel O’Day to announce that an FDA emergency use authorization has been granted for Gilead’s remdesivir drug to treat COVID-19 patients Friday, May 1, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian) Patents are only valid so long as the state agrees to prosecute anyone who breaks them. The government could easily decide that anyone who is safely able to produce the drug may do so, or it may make it itself. This is the solution that organizations like Doctors Without Borders advocate to prevent coronavirus drugs, tests, and vaccines from becoming inaccessible.

In the United States, the Bayh-Dole Act would theoretically allow the federal government to override the patent of any COVID-19 treatment or vaccine created with the help of federal funds.

But opponents warn that this would prevent pharmaceutical companies from making a profit and could therefore discourage them from engaging in research in the first place. However, moves like this might still be used as leverage. In 2001, Bayer sold the antibiotic Cirpo, used to treat anthrax, to the federal government at a discount price after the Bush administration threatened to buy a generic version.

Meanwhile, the libertarian Cato Institute is advocating a method to override the patent issue altogether by offering prizes instead. Any company that researches an effective COVID-19 vaccine would get a cash reward in the place of monopoly over its production. This would incentivize innovation while still ensuring widespread availability.

Along these lines, it would also be possible to direct more funding into public sector pharmaceutical research so that we would be less dependent on profit-motivated private corporations. With renewed interest in public health issues, an expansion of government funding would surely be popular.

There is no one, simple answer to keeping drug prices low – either in response to the current crisis, or in the long term – but any approach should start with the baseline assumption that unaffordable treatments are unacceptable.

 


 

*** Follow The Pavlovic Today on Twitter @pavlovictoday

Share This!

Tags

COVID-19 coronavirus Gilead pharmaceuticals Remdesivir

Like this article?

Comments

Related stories

The Attempts To Downplay COVID-19’s Death Toll Are Getting Ridiculous

The Attempts To Downplay COVID-19’s Death Toll Are Getting Ridiculous

For anyone arguing that the reaction to COVID-19 is overblown and we should all return to our normal lives, the typical first step is to claim that the number of people who have died from the virus is actually not that high. In…

Read more trending_flat
This Is What Mike Pence Says About Dissolving The Coronavirus Task Force

This Is What Mike Pence Says About Dissolving The Coronavirus Task Force

VP Mike Pence and coronavirus task force members conducted a briefing for reporters this afternoon. The conversation was held at OEOB and included wires, some conservative-leaning outlets, and other media. Here's what has…

Read more trending_flat
COVID-19 Vaccine Search Highlights Folly of Trump’s “America First” Philosophy

COVID-19 Vaccine Search Highlights Folly of Trump’s “America First” Philosophy

Nationalism was always one of President Donald Trump’s selling points. His campaign rejected both moral and strategic arguments for multilateral cooperation and instead pledged a policy that would put “America first.” The…

Read more trending_flat
Do Not Inject Or Ingest Disinfectant As A Cure For COVID-19

Do Not Inject Or Ingest Disinfectant As A Cure For COVID-19

The next statement should not need to be put into words, but please do not inject or ingest disinfectant as a cure for COVID-19, it is dangerous and could lead to severe illness or death. Many news organizations gave similar warnings…

Read more trending_flat
Watch Live: Hillary Clinton Joins A Town Hall With Joe Biden

Watch Live: Hillary Clinton Joins A Town Hall With Joe Biden

Tune in at 3 PM EDT and watch live in the player below  …

Read more trending_flat
A Vocal Minority Of Protesters Shouldn’t Determine The Coronavirus Response 

A Vocal Minority Of Protesters Shouldn’t Determine The Coronavirus Response 

In red and blue states alike, protesters are defying social distancing guidelines to demonstrate against government-imposed restrictions prompted by COVID-19 and demand that their states “reopen the economy.” On the…

Read more trending_flat

Latest article

Top