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Drug firms will cash in

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Issue 2711
Donald Trump meets with Gilead CEO Daniel ODay
Donald Trump meets with Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day

The coronavirus crisis is a profit-laden paradise for some pharmaceutical firms.

Remdesivir is an anti-viral treatment for Covid-19 shown to help reduce some patients’ recovery time. Its US maker, Gilead Sciences, has priced the drug at £318 per dose for governments.

A typical course of the treatment sees patients take six doses over five days. That means the cost of treating one person is £1,907. In the US, it plans to charge private insurers more than it will charge governments. 

This means the typical cost for a patient with insurance will be £2,538.

This drug was developed with at least £57 million in public money. Other—cheaper—drugs that actually cut death rates are available. 


Researchers at Oxford university found that dexamethasone, a steroid, cut virus deaths by up to a third for patients on ventilators. 

Lead researcher professor Martin Landray said, “There is a clear, clear benefit. Essentially it costs £35 to save a life. This drug is globally available.”

Big firms such as Gilead want to focus on less effective medicines that they can make more money from.

Any drug that will help patients in any way should be freely available to all. The fact that they are not is a damning indictment of a system that puts profit over people’s lives.

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