How much will COVID-19 treatment Remdesivir actually cost?

For now, it's free. But that will change.
Posted at 4:19 PM, May 11, 2020

The drug Remdesivir has been hailed as a potentially life-saving treatment to fight the novel coronvirus.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recently said, “Hospitalized patients with advanced COVID-19 and lung involvement who received Remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received placebo."

But how much will it cost as more hospitals and doctors use it?

For now the answer is unclear.

Remdesivir is a product of Gilead Sciences Inc. Recently Gilead's CEO, Daniel O'Day, announced the company would give it's current supply of the treatment to the federal government so they could determine the best use of the drug.

But that is not expected to last forever.

Dr. Steve Pearson runs the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review. His team recently announced the fair price for the drug would be $4,500, based on the cost to produce it and its potentially life-saving effects.

Dr. Pearson said however Gilead has much discretion in what they will charge. He says even though the government played a role in researching Remdesivir and coronvirus over the years, the federal government traditionally does not tell a drug company what they can charge.

"Our traditional system doesn’t take that into consideration," Dr. Pearson said.

"This drug did have funding support in its earlier years of development from the NIH, so the federal government has participated in the funding," Dr. Pearson added.

Gilead does have a history of generating controversy with their drug prices.

In 2015, they were criticized for pricing Sovaldi, a Hepatitis C-fighting drug, at $84,000 per treatment. That broke down to around $1,000 per pill.

Now, Congress appears to be keeping a close eye on what Gilead will charge. After all, the National Institutes of Health has spent over $700 million researching coronvirus, including Remdesivir, previously.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services a request for oversight.

“Taxpayers are often the angel investors in pharmaceutical research and development; yet, this is not reflected in the prices they pay, the letter read.

"To ensure patients and the federal government are not subject to price gouging, we respectfully ask that you provide a breakdown of expenditures and sources of funding which the federal government has spent on the research and development of Remdesivir.”

What happens next with Remdesivir is very much in the hands of Gilead and whether the effectiveness of this drug continues.