The United States has purchased substantially all of the world’s supply of one of only two drugs that have been shown to be effective against coronavirus.
The drug, manufactured by the American pharmaceutical company Gilead, was originally developed as a treatment for Ebola, but studies have now shown that it speeds up the healing of the coronavirus.
However, patients in the UK and Europe are unlikely to have access until the fall after the US government purchases more than 500,000 doses, according to the Guardian.
This represents the entire world supply for July and 90% of the stocks for August and September.
“This agreement by America means that people with Covid-19 in the UK cannot access these treatments which would get them out of the hospital quickly and could improve their chances of survival,” said Dr Andrew Hill from the University of Liverpool. Sky News.
The United States has purchased almost the entire global supply of remdesivir (photo), one of only two drugs that have been shown to be effective against coronavirus
“So far, we know that for the next three months, there will be no more remdesivir – America will take the drugs and we will not have access to them. This is the case in the UK and Europe. “
Remdesivir, produced by California pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences, was originally developed to treat Ebola but has been shown to be effective against coronavirus.
According to the United States government, it costs approximately £ 2,580 ($ 3,200) for a six-dose course of medication.
Last month, Secretary of Health Matt Hancock called remdesivir “a big step forward” in the treatment of Covid-19 since the epidemic got out of hand.
The only other drug that has proven effective against Covid-19 so far is dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory steroid.
This means that the crucial drug is unlikely to be available to critically ill patients across Europe until October, raising concerns for coronavirus patients in the UK (photo: Gilead Sciences in California)
Dexamethasone, a £ 5 steroid that has been around for decades, was the first proven drug to reduce the death rate in hospital patients needing oxygen.
Alex Azar, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, said, “Whenever possible, we want to make sure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it.
“The Trump administration is doing everything in our power to learn more about life-saving therapies for Covid-19 and secure access to these options for the American people. “
WHAT IS REMDESIVIR AND DOES IT WORK AGAINST COVID-19?
Remdesivir was developed by Gilead Sciences to treat Ebola, the deadly hemorrhagic fever that emerged in West Africa in 2014.
Ebola, like Covid-19, is caused by a virus, and scientists have tested remdesivir to treat patients with coronaviruses.
The trials produced encouraging results early this year, when they showed promise for the prevention and treatment of MERS – another coronavirus – in macaque monkeys.
Studies in humans have produced mixed results.
In a study by the US government, remdesivir shortened recovery time by 31% – 11 days on average compared to 15 days for those who receive just usual care.
But he hadn’t improved survival according to preliminary results after two weeks of follow-up. Results after four weeks are expected soon.
The drug appears to help stop the replication of viruses like the coronavirus and Ebola.
It is not clear how the drug accomplishes this, but it seems to prevent the virus’s genetic material, RNA, from being able to copy itself.
This, in turn, prevents the virus from being able to proliferate further inside the patient’s body.
Remdesivir is patented by Gilead, which means that no other developed country is able to do so.
The evidence for remdesivir is mixed, but scientific studies have shown that it helps the most seriously ill people who need ventilation.
Britain has so far received free remdesivir due to an agreement with Gilead to donate 1.5 million vials worldwide. However, this scheme has come to an end.
Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day revealed a pricing structure for the drug in an open letter this week.
O’Day wrote that the company had set the price for developed countries “to ensure broad and equitable access at a time of urgent global need.”
He did not announce to which countries it would apply – and said the $ 390 price would apply to Americans covered by government health care.
For US private insurance companies, the cost will be $ 520 (£ 420) per vial, for a total of $ 3,120 (£ 2,540) per patient.
Announcing approval of the drug at a press conference in Downing Street in May, the secretary of health said, “This is probably the greatest advance in the treatment of coronavirus since the onset of the crisis.
“These are early stages, but we are determined to support science and support promising projects. As you can understand, we will favor the use of this treatment where it can offer the greatest benefit.
The United States government has been criticized for its tactics in the global coronavirus treatment market.
He has shown his willingness to outbid other countries and keep his supplies rather than cooperate with them.
French pharmaceutical manufacturer Sanofi announced in May that the United States would first get its coronavirus vaccine if it worked, but then changed its mind under pressure from the French government.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned, “We know it is in our common interest to work together and cooperate to keep our citizens safe.
Another option for the UK government would be to use a “compulsory license” which is a legal tool that would allow Gilead’s patents for the drug to be ignored.
Generic versions of the drug could be purchased in countries like India that do not recognize the patent.
However, the UK does not like to do this because it would irritate the national pharmaceutical industry which claims that 20-year copyright is needed to recover the money invested in the development of new treatments.