Remdesivir is the first medication approved on an emergency basis by the FDA in the United States to treat COVID-19, after a 140,000-dose worldwide trial indicated that the drug may help reduce the recovery time for infected patients from approximately 15 days to 11, and the mortality rate by approximately 40 percent. Originally developed as a treatment for hepatitis C by biopharma company Gilead Sciences, it never worked for that purpose, but it is showing promise for COVID-19. In May, the UK and Japan also approved it for treating severe cases of COVID-19, but now they won’t be getting any.
In a unilateral action, the Trump Administration, under the president’s guidance, purchased more than 500,000 doses, which accounts for almost all of Gilead’s expected production of the drug into September.
“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorized therapeutic for COVID-19, said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Azar, one of President Trump’s appointees, is a pharmaceutical trade lobbyist. “To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it. The Trump administration is doing everything in our power to … secure access to the options for the American people.”
During the trial, Azar was responsible for the distribution of the U.S. share of the trial run of the drug. He faced criticism at the time for spreading it to Trump-friendly states and ignoring greater need in places like New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco. The federal government also interfered in states’ efforts to get other vital COVID-19 treatment supplies such as respirators for patients and masks for first responders. It used the Defense Production Act to block the shipment of needed goods to Canada and other countries, and now it is attempting to block the entire world from an important treatment option.
It’s also worth noting that each dose of remdesivir purchased by the Trump administration is still expected to cost the patient approximately $533, or $3,200 for the full six-dose course.
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