In May, when it was announced that a drug is proving to be effective on the patients of COVID-19, great expectations were raised about it. This drug was Remdesivir. It is an antiviral drug from the American pharma company Gilead. Initial tests showed that this drug could cure patients infected with the coronavirus quickly.
After this announcement, experts, doctors, and politicians from all over the world asked themselves a question. The question was how much would Gilead charge for this drug?
At that time only two drugs were seen to be effective in the war against the coronavirus. The first one was Remdesivir while the second one was steroid dexamethasone.
A few days ago the answer was found. In the US, insurance companies will have to pay $ 3,120 for every patient for five days of treatment in every condition.
Price of Remdesivir
Other developed countries will have to pay $ 2,340 per treatment.
Gilead said in a statement that in developing countries the company is in talks with companies making generic drugs so that the medicine can be provided in these countries at a very low price. However, there was no mention of the price in this.
Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said in the statement, “We understand the great responsibility that is incumbent on us to determine the price of Remedisvir.” He said, “After much care, long time, and discussion, we are ready to share our decision.” This decision, however, fell prey to criticism from a large section.
These people believed that at a time when the world is going through a health emergency, it is a crime to set such a high price for the medicine used in its treatment.
Investigation and Development
Peter Maybardak is the director of the ‘Access to Medicines’ program of the non-governmental organization ‘Public Citizen’. ‘Public Citizen’ is headquartered in Washington.
Peter says, “By showing arrogance and disregard for the common people, Gilead has fixed a price of thousands of dollars for a drug that should be among the common people.”
Experts say that pharmaceutical companies have every right to make profits because they have to invest huge capital to develop and produce medicine.
“You have to start with the fact that the development of drugs is a very expensive deal. The average price of a drug from discovery to market is close to that,” says Francisco Lopez Munoz, professor of pharmacology at Camillo Jose Sela University in Madrid.
It costs 1.14 billion dollars. Also, it takes a lot of time. It can take up to 12 years to develop a drug and only one out of every 5,000 drugs being studied can reach the market. With this, We also have to see the expiry of the patent. The patent of the drug expires after 20 years of coming to the market. “
Hepatitis-C to Corona
However, the case with Remdesivir is slightly different. This is because it is not a new medicine. Nor has Gilead developed it specifically for the COVID-19.
The drug was initially developed for Hepatitis-C.
When it was found that it was ineffective on hepatitis, it was tried to treat the Ebola virus, but it did not work there either and Gilead put it in the freezer.
After the outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this year, Gilead decided to test the drug again and try it against the coronavirus.
These new clinical trials were funded by the National Institutes of Health of America and other international institutions. That is, it was the taxpayers’ money.
For this reason, experts say that in the era of the Corona epidemic, this medicine should be provided to the common people at the cost of production.
Somewhat more expensive
Gilead has not disclosed the production cost of Remdesivir, but analysis by the Clinical and Economic Review Institute (ICER) showed that the cost of manufacturing this drug for a 10-day treatment per patient is about $ 10.
However, according to the new price set by Gilead, Remedisvir can earn $ 2.3 billion in 2020 for its parent company.
The Royal Bank of Canada has assessed this.
Critics are saying that in the time of a health emergency at the global level, it is like a scam to make a big profit of a company.
Graham Dutfield, an expert professor of Intellectual Property and Health Regulations at the University of Leeds, says, “I am not opposed to making a profit, but the price of Remdesivir is overblown. But, I also believe that the government has done something to stop it Neither did it, in such a situation it is like a scam. The industry works under a regulatory system and the government decides the regulatory system. “
Universal healthcare system
The price of medicines is decided differently according to each country.
Dutfield says that in places like Britain and the rest of Europe, the prices of medicines are much lower because there is a universal healthcare system. They get big discounts from manufacturers.
Dutfield explains, however, the situation in America is completely different. He says, “Here the pharmaceutical industry is not subject to any kind of price control. Pharma companies can decide the price of drugs according to their wish. In such a situation, only one pressure can control prices and that is Political pressure. “
For this reason, in developed countries in the worst affected countries, the treatments developed in developed countries usually arrive late and are very expensive. Such sentences have also been seen before.
He says, “In many countries, there are large numbers of people who cannot afford $ 3,420.”
Drug companies leave patents
Experts say that the price of Remdesivir is important because other companies looking for treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 will decide their strategy and prices according to its price.
Munoz explains, “We are scared to hear of the price of Remedesivir. It is very expensive. But, the real issue is not with Remedesvir, but it will be seen when the first vaccine arrives.”
“Remadecivir is only for the treatment of a small group of people, a very few infected patients. On the other hand, the vaccine will come for the entire population of the world and it will create many other ethical aspects as well.”
For this reason, many people are asking pharma companies to renounce their patents during the epidemic and regain them after the epidemic.
“I believe that the scientists working in the industry want to help the world, but the final decision is not in the hands of these people,” says Dutfield.