Trump buys up world stock of key Covid-19 drug remdesivir
London, July 1, 2020 (AltAfrica)-The Trump administration in US has bought up virtually all the stocks for the next three months of one of the two drugs proven to work against Covid-19, leaving none for the rest of the world.
Experts and campaigners are alarmed both by the US unilateral action on remdesivir and the wider implications, for instance in the event of a vaccine becoming available. The Trump administration has already shown that it is prepared to outbid and outmanoeuvre all other countries to secure the medical supplies it needs for the US.
“They’ve got access to most of the drug supply [of remdesivir], so there’s nothing for Europe,” said Dr Andrew Hill, senior visiting research fellow at Liverpool University.
Remdesivir, the first drug approved by licensing authorities in the US to treat Covid-19, is made by Gilead and has been shown to help people recover faster from the disease. The first 140,000 doses, supplied to drug trials around the world, have been used up. The Trump administration has now bought more than 500,000 doses, which is all of Gilead’s production for July and 90% of August and September.
“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19,” said the US health and human services secretary, Alex Azar.
“To the extent possible, we want to ensure 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 therapeutics for Covid-19 and secure access to these options for the American people.”
The drug, which was trialled in the Ebola epidemic but failed to work as expected, is under patent to Gilead, which means no other company in wealthy countries can make it. The cost is around $3,200 per treatment of six doses, according to the US government statement
The deal was announced as it became clear that the pandemic in the US is spiralling out of control. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading public health expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Senate the US was sliding backwards.
“We are going in the wrong direction,” said Fauci. Last week the US saw a new daily record of 40,000 new coronavirus cases in one day. “I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around,” he said. He could not provide an estimated death toll, but said: “It is going to be very disturbing, I guarantee you that.”
The US has recorded more than 2.5 million confirmed cases of Covid-19. Some states lifted restrictions only to have to clamp down again. On Monday, the governor of Arizona ordered bars, cinemas, gyms and water parks to shut down for a month, weeks after they reopened. Texas, Florida and California, all seeing rises in cases, have also reimposed restrictions.
Buying up the world’s supply of remdesivir is not just a reaction to the increasing spread and death toll. The US has taken an “America first” attitude throughout the global pandemic.