The current supply of US government remdesivir, the only drug known to work against Covid-19, will run out at the end of the month, Dr. Robert Kadlec, an official with the US Department of Health and Human Services, told CNN.
The government’s last shipment of the drug will be released the week of June 29. Gilead Sciences, the company that makes the drug, is preparing to do more, but it’s unclear how much will be available this summer.
“At this time, we are waiting to receive from Gilead the expected availability of the drug for the period June to July,” said Kadlec. “We are not in a way in negotiations, but in discussions with Gilead while they project what will be the availability of their product.”
Last month, the United States Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral drug studied to treat Ebola, but now used on Covid patients in hospital. Although it is not a successful drug, a study shows that it reduces the hospital stay by four to 15 days from 15 to 11 days.
The government has worked to help Gilead “meet some of the raw material supply chain challenges and speed up the process,” said Kadlec, HHS assistant secretary for preparation and response.
He added that it was clear that “whatever the offer, there might not be enough for everyone who needs it.”
Kadlec said that Gilead has given a “general line” of product delivery for July and August, which “then extends considerably from September, October and into the fall as they somehow turn on the tap.” their production and their transformation. “
Gilead provided few details to the public, but said he planned to have more than 500,000 courses of treatment available by October, and more than a million by December.
“After the donation, the company will work closely with governments and health systems to enable healthcare providers to prescribe remdesivir to affected patients,” she said on a healthcare provider website. .
“We plan to work with the United States government to determine the distribution of remdesivir after the donation,” Gilead spokesperson Sonia Choi told CNN on Sunday.
Fear of high prices
In early May, the government began distributing a stock of remdesivir donated by Gilead. The company has supplied 940,000 vials of the drug, enough for about 121,000 patients, according to HHS.
Now that the free offer has almost disappeared, Gilead is afraid of charging a high price.
“The price Gilead can charge, as with any pharmaceutical in America, seems to be the limit of the sky – no matter who is sick or dying,” said representative Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat from Texas who chairs the subcommittee. House Ways and Means Health. .
Last month Doggett joined representative Rosa DeLauro – the Connecticut Democrat who chairs the Parliamentary Budget Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education – and wrote a letter to HHS secretary Alex Azar , asking for details of any agreement between Gilead and the government regarding remdesivir. They noted that taxpayers were helping to fund the development of the drug.
“HHS did not answer any of our questions about pricing and what it is doing to protect taxpayer investment in remdesivir, a drug that would not even be used but for taxpayer investment of about 70 millions of dollars in its development, “Doggett told CNN, adding that taxpayers were” basically the angel investors of remdesivir. “
Under its FDA emergency clearance, the distribution of remdesivir is controlled by the government. But Kadlec said no final decision has been made on how the drug will be managed after this month – for example, whether the government will continue to source it, or whether it will be sold through normal channels as any other medication.
Official: enough remdesivir for about half of hospital patients
In early May, the government distributed a small amount of remdesivir directly to about two dozen hospitals across the country without explaining why these hospitals were chosen over others.
In the midst of an uproar, the HHS began distributing remdesivir to public health services, but questions remain. For example, the week of May 4, California and Texas received the same amount of remdesivir, although California had many more coronavirus patients.
The shortages in some places were severe. San Francisco, for example, had 70 patients in the hospital with Covid-19, but only enough remdesivir for about four of them.
HHS now uses a distribution formula based on the number of patients reported by hospitals to the agency. And although HHS did not originally reveal where the remdesivir was going, the agency is now posting on its website the amount of drug that goes into each state.
“We learned from that first day’s expedition that we needed to find a better way to do it,” said Dr. John Redd, an HHS official, in an interview with CNN. “So we took a break and switched to a better and improved model that targets exactly where the patients are and where they are currently receiving treatment.”
He said the amount of remdesivir distributed last week could potentially treat about half of Covid patients in US hospitals, based on the number of patients reported by hospitals to HHS.
The federal government ships the drug to state health departments, and those departments decide which hospitals will receive it and how much they will receive. Remdesivir is not suitable for all Covid patients, however, and doctors ultimately decide which patients are treated with the drug.
The US government’s supply of the only Covid-19 drug that has proven successful this month first appeared on CNN.