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US Buying Up Remdesivir

The purchase by Health and Human Services ensures US hospitals can secure the COVID-19 medication for the next few months.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced earlier this week it has reached an agreement with remdesivir manufacturer, Gilead, to buy large quantities of the medication for the treatment of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). This move by the Trump Administration allows US hospitals to purchase the medication allocated by HHS and state health departments.

“To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.

HHS bought more than 500000 treatment courses of the drug for US hospitals through September. This purchase represents 100% of Gilead’s projected production for July (94,200 treatment courses), 90% of production in August (174,900 treatment courses), and 90% of production in September (232,800 treatment courses) —in addition to an allocation for clinical trials.

“Gilead has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) whereby HHS and states will continue to manage allocation to hospitals until the end of September,” Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day stated in an open letter. “After this period, once supplies are less constrained, HHS will no longer manage allocation.”

Hospitals will receive the product shipped by AmerisourceBergen and will pay no more than Gilead’s Wholesale Acquisition Price (WAC), which amounts to approximately $3,200 per treatment course. Generally, patients do not pay directly for hospital-administered drugs like remdesivir; rather, for Medicare and most private insurers, the drug’s cost is incorporated into payments made by the insurer, such as Medicare paying for the drug through a diagnostic-related group.

Back in May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for remdesivir for COVID-19, and it has been shown to be efficacious in patients who are hospitalized with severe COVID-19.

On Monday, Gilead announced it had developed pricing for remdesivir. In the US, it will be $520 per vial for patients with private insurance, with some government programs getting a discount. On average, a treatment course of the medication is 6.25 vials, because a double dose is administered on the first day. This equates to $3,120 for the five-day treatment course.

For developing countries, the pricing is set at $390 per vial, and $2,340 for the five-day course.

Prior to setting a price for the drug, Gilead had donated 1.5 million doses of remdesivir to countries around the world, which equaled around 140,000 treatment courses. The final allotment of the manufacturer’s donated treatment courses was shipped this past Monday.

Gilead has even decided to look at another way to deliver the drug in hopes of mitigating the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) recently provided new recommendations on remdesivir.