$2,340 for a Covid-19 treatment?
Yesterday US pharmaceutical company, Gilead announced that they will charge an extraordinary $2,340 for a five-day treatment course for the drug remdesivir, which is being used as a treatment for Covid-19. The drug has been developed with substantial amounts of public money in the US, with a reported $70.5 million of public investment. Researchers have estimated that the drug can be made for $9, including a reasonable profit. Charging such high prices for this Covid19 treatment, is not only unjustified but it is a blatant act of corporate profiteering and shows a barefaced disregard for the public health crisis that the world is facing.
The price Gilead are preparing to charge is almost ten times higher than the recommended price for a drug that doesn't save patients’ lives, based on a pricing benchmark study by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review. The CEO of Gilead claims that their price is actually a bargain, that it’s a lot less than what it would charge during normal times but this is small comfort especially as Gilead has a track record of charging extortionate prices for life-saving drugs. Instead, their claims only expose their naked profiteering from a global pandemic on a drug that has been developed with substantial public investment.
And it's not the first time that Gilead has been trying to profiteer from this drug. Earlier this year, Gilead applied for the drug to be designated as a drug for a rare disease so that it could benefit from additional monopoly protections that come with this classification - in other words to profit exclusively from this drug for longer. After public outrage over this crude attempt to profiteer from a global pandemic, the company rescinded this classification.
This cutthroat behaviour is a stark reminder that we cannot trust pharmaceutical companies to ensure access for all to essential Covid-19 treatments and vaccines. We need governments to intervene to override patents to ensure access to affordable health products and to attach stringent conditions to public funding. Without these steps, big pharma will have free rein to profiteer their way through this crisis leaving millions of people around the world without fair and affordable access to much-needed treatments and vaccines.