U.S. buys up worldwide stock of remdesivir, drug seen as potential COVID-19 treatment

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The United States has secured nearly the entire worldwide supply of remdesivir, a drug that’s proven effective for severely ill patients of the novel coronavirus — leaving hardly any for Canada and the rest of the world.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Monday it has secured more than 500,000 treatment courses of the drug from its sole manufacturer Gilead Sciences for American hospitals through September. Each treatment course uses an average of over six vials of the drug.

According to a news release, the buyout represents 100 per cent of Gilead’s projected production for July, 90 per cent of August’s production, and 90 per cent of production through September. A further “allocation for clinical trials” has also been secured.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar called the move “an amazing deal” struck by U.S. President Donald Trump “to ensure Americans have access to the first authorized therapeutic for COVID-19.”

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“To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it,” Azar added in a statement.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization to Gilead on May 1 after a major study by the by the U.S. National Institutes of Health showed remdesivir can reduce recovery time for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

The 250,000 treatment courses that the company had donated to the U.S. and other countries will run out in about a week. After that, treatment courses will cost $2,340 each for people covered by government health programs in the United States and other developed countries, Gilead announced Monday.

Gilead has a patent on remdesivir, making it the only company able to manufacture the drug. That effectively means any other country that wants it may have to wait until at least September to procure it.

Global News has reached out to Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada for comment on the U.S. announcement.

Health Canada has approved two clinical trials of the drug for use against COVID-19, and is currently reviewing Gilead’s application to authorize remdesivir for treatment of the disease. It has yet to be approved or given emergency authorization in Canada.

—With files from the Associated Press


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