Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program
Note: Gilead today announced that remdesivir, a drug approved to treat COVID-19, will be priced at $3,120 for a typical patient with insurance. Public Citizen previously found that public financial support for remdesivir’s development totals at least $70.5 million, through federal grants and clinical trials, and has pushed for Gilead to price the treatment at $1 per day. Gilead’s price is 10 times higher than the cost-effective benchmark price ($310) suggested by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) last week, given that no mortality benefit has been demonstrated for remdesivir.
In an offensive display of hubris and disregard for the public, Gilead has priced at several thousand dollars a drug that should be in the public domain.
For $1 per day, remdesivir can be manufactured at scale with a reasonable profit. According to ICER, at $310 per course, remdesivir would be cost effective. Gilead has yet to show why the price should be higher. Gilead initially developed remdesivir as one of several candidate treatments for hepatitis C and has made tens of billions off its successful hepatitis C drugs. What is relevant now are Gilead’s as-yet-unpublished costs and the public’s many investments in repurposing remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19.
Gilead did not make remdesivir alone. Public funding was indispensable at each stage, and government scientists led the early drug discovery team. Allowing Gilead to set the terms during a pandemic represents a colossal failure of leadership by the Trump administration. The U.S. government has authority and a responsibility to steward the technology it helped develop.