Drug prices continue to rise as the world races to find a COVID-19 vaccine. Scientists have proven that existing drugs may help us get through the coronavirus pandemic but high pricing by pharmaceutical companies keeps them out of reach. This would ultimately mean that sick people will not be able to afford the treatment, despite the effectiveness of the drugs.
Pharmaceutical companies often defend their pricing by claiming that their costs to make the drugs are incredibly high. However, when calculating the price of a generic version of the drug (factoring in export costs and taxes) researchers from the Journal of Virus Eradication have proven otherwise, and even an additional 10% profit margin.
Research confirms need for price drop
A recent study from the Journal of Virus Eradication looked at nine of the drugs that have been identified as possible COVID-19 treatments and are in various stages of clinical trials globally. The team of researchers looked at how much each of the drugs is sold for in countries where data was available. Then they calculated what a generic version of these drugs might cost.
Dr. Jacob Levi, one of the authors of the study, “That’s been extremely common with infectious disease medications in the past, like hepatitis and HIV, (to be priced unreasonably high) and we can’t let it happen with medications for COVID-19. Otherwise, hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths would occur and healthcare inequality amongst the poor will worsen.”
The study’s conclusion
Costs of production ranged between $0.30 and $31 per treatment course (10–28 days). The current prices of these drugs are in the thousands, particularly in the U.S.
The study’s conclusion was that, “Should repurposed drugs demonstrate efficacy against COVID-19, they could be manufactured profitably at very low costs, for much less than current list prices. Estimations for the minimum production costs can strengthen price negotiations and help ensure affordable access to vital treatment for COVID-19 at low prices globally.”
New COVID-19 drug donation
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) announced that Gilead Sciences has come up with an allocation plan for the drug remdesivir. The allocation is from a donation by Gilead Sciences, Inc. to the United States which was finalized on May 3.
There are 1.5 million vials of the drug ready, which is enough for about 100,000 to 200,000 patients. After widespread criticism, the company continues to manufacture more remdesivir and has donated its entire stockpile of the drug of 607,000 vials to the U.S.