Thursday 24 June 2021

Coronavirus: Wealthy nations compete for remdesivir supplies

The world's wealthiest countries are competing for remdesivir, despite assurances that they would work together to develop drugs that treat COVID-19. Pharmaceuticals giant Gilead Sciences is in an enviable position.

Zolgensma, a gene therapy medicine for treating spinal muscular atrophy in children under the age of two, is now available in Germany. However, a single treatment of the drug, which is produced by Swiss pharmaceuticals company Novartis, comes at the steep price of €1.9 million ($2.1 million).

The manufacturer argues that this is a reasonable price considering that without it, it costs between €2.5 and 4 million to treat the degenerative disease over a lifetime.

Gilead Sciences, which has developed remdesivir, takes a similar line of argument, saying that the drug, which is viewed as a promising tool in the fight against COVID-19, could save costs in the long run.

- Advertisement -

In an open letter earlier this week, Daniel O’Day, chairman and CEO of Gilead Sciences, wrote: “Taking the example of the United States, earlier hospital discharge would result in hospital savings of approximately $12,000 per patient. Even just considering these immediate savings to the healthcare system alone, we can see the potential value that remdesivir provides.”

“We have decided to price remdesivir well below this value,” he continued. “To ensure broad and equitable access at a time of urgent global need, we have set a price for governments of developed countries of $390 per vial. Based on current treatment patterns, the vast majority of patients are expected to receive a 5-day treatment course using 6 vials of remdesivir, which equates to $2,340 per patient.”

A single treatment of Zolgensma, produced by Swiss pharmaceuticals firm Novartis, costs €1.9 million

- Advertisement -

What is fair drug pricing?

The editor of the German specialist magazine Arznei-Telegramm, Wolfgang Becker-Brüser, is not convinced. He told DW that the costs of treating COVID-19 without remdesivir had been calculated at random.

“There is an attempt to give the impression that the price is fair,” he said. “However, if there wasn’t a pandemic and so much public attention they might have set the price much higher.”

The Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (vfa) refused to comment. “The vfa does not comment on the pricing schemes of individual companies,” it said in a statement to DW.

But in the past, the vfa has called on the pharmaceuticals sector to show responsibility with regard to consumers and demanded that affordable medicine and vaccines be made available.

An analysis by British researchers cited in the Germany weekly Der Spiegel came to the conclusion that it probably cost about €8 to produce one dose of remdesivir.

- Advertisement -

However, it is normal for the sale price to be much higher than the production price, considering companies invest huge sums into development.

Gilead Sciences claims that it invested about $1 billion into remdesivir. This is actually at the lower end of the vfa’s scale for developing a new drug. The association told DW that companies tended to invest $1 to 1.6 billion in a new product.

For Wolfgang Becker-Brüser, this is “fantasy.”

“If the development costs are calculated to be so high then it is easy to demand higher prices,” he told DW.

For Alexander Nuyken, a pharmaceuticals expert at the consulting firm EY, there is a reason that development costs are so high: they encompass the risk of failure. “It has to be possible to add a premium for the risks incurred from the development of a drug to its approval,” he said.

Global competition

According to media reports, the US has already secured the entire stock of projected production for July and 90% for August.

Germany, too, has apparently secured supplies. Health Minister Jens Spahn has been applying pressure. He said that he expected “Germany and Europe to have access to supplies to such a drug.” The British government has also said that it has enough reserves.

So far, remdesivir has not been fully approved in any country and there has not been enough research into how effective it really is against the novel coronavirus. But apart from Dexamethason, it is the drug that seems to have the most potential for treating patients with SARS-CoV-2 and limiting the disease’s course.

Alexander Nuyken said that it was not surprising that the world’s wealthy nations were all eager to get hold of supplies. “That’s why it is particularly important that we find common solutions in international alliances.”

There are already several international forums in which this is being attempted and a European vaccine alliance has been formed with the WHO.

However, the problem, as with the global fight against the climate emergency, is that if the US does not play by the same rules, the attempts of other states will be curbed.

Those who benefit, said Becker-Brüser, are the pharmaceuticals giants, “which are in a position to aim higher.”

It will soon become clear how high Gilead Sciences is prepared to go. Right now, the European Union is negotiating with the US company and trying to ensure that all 27 states have supplies in the coming months.

 

- Advertisement -

FACT CHECK:
We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

Related Articles

Could a simple pill beat COVID-19? Pfizer is giving it a go

While the focus has been largely on vaccines, you might have...

Pfizer Begins Human Trials of New Pill to Treat Coronavirus

Q HEALTH - Pfizer said it has begun human safety testing...

MOST READ

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 18: 9 & 0 CANNOT circulate

Today, Friday, June 18, vehicles with plates ending 9 & 0 CANNOT circulate The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm,...

First five months of the year reflect recovery of Costa Rican exports

QCOSTARICA - The value of Costa Rica exports increased by 23% in the first five months of the year, being the highest growth in...

Pandemic reinforces the Costa Rica’s attractiveness as a global destination for wellness tourism

QCOSTARICA - The pandemic caused by Covid-19 fuels the strategy of positioning Costa Rica as a world destination to develop wellness tourism, since travelers...

Germany opens borders to Ticos from this Friday!

QCOSTARICA - Good news for Ticos with traveling fever! From Friday, June 25, Germany will allow entry of travelers from Costa Rica as long...

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 24: plates ending in 7 & 8 CANNOT circulate

Today, Thursday, June 24, plates ending in 7 & 8 CANNOT circulate. The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm, save...

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 19: only “ODDS” can circulate

Today, Saturday, June 19, only vehicles with "ODD" ending plates CAN circulate The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm, save...

Ortegs regime requests Russia’s armament and military preparation to face “threats of terrorism”

TODAY NICARAGUA – Russian Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigú, revealed during the IX International Security Conference in Moscow that the Government of Nicaragua requested...

Week immersed in passage of tropical wave, June Solstice and Veranillo

QCOSTARICA - Today, Monday, June 21, is the day of the year when the sun stays the longest on the horizon, therefore it is...

Today 50 years ago: Costa Rica and Panama entered into conflict over air routes

TODAY COSTA RICA - Original text published in La Nacion on June 23, 1971 - A conflict over air routes, has been unleashed between...

WANT TO STAY UP TO DATE WITH THE LATEST!

Get our daily newsletter with the latest posts directly in your mailbox. Click on the subscribe and fill out the form. It's that simple!

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.