Gilead’s Monopoly, Trump’s Mismanagement Contributed to Treatment Rationing for at Least 38 Hospitals in 12 States, and Globally
WASHINGTON, D.C. – States that had more coronavirus hospitalizations often received less of the experimental coronavirus treatment remdesivir than states with fewer hospitalizations since the Trump administration began distributing it commercially in July, worsening the already short supply of the drug, according to a new Public Citizen report.
Doses of remdesivir are in short supply, leading to shortages and rationing by doctors, and the Trump administration’s mishandling of scarce supply is making the national shortage worse. At least 38 hospitals in 32 cities in 12 states reported shortages of the treatment. States with multiple hospitals that reported shortages include Florida (20), Texas (3), California (3), Virginia (2), Missouri (2) and South Carolina (2), according to the report.
Public Citizen’s analysis of data from states that publicly report hospitalizations found that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not follow its stated distribution criteria based on hospital burden when allocating remdesivir. For example, from July 8 until Aug. 4, Ohio recorded 2,736 new hospital admissions and the total people hospitalized on a given day hovered around 1,000. At the same time, Georgia had 7,200 new hospital admissions over the same time period, and the total people hospitalized at one time was around 2,500 to 3,000. Ohio, however, was allocated 5,043 courses of remdesivir while Georgia was only given 3,334. Public Citizen’s dataset is available here.
In response today to a CBS news investigation on the report, the White House said anytime it has had a request from governors for more remdesivir it has “been able to meet those demands.”
“This means the White House allowed proximity to power and insider jockeying to determine who received limited medical supplies during a pandemic, likely at the expense of people’s health” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “The White House politicized the process instead of following HHS’s health criteria.”
The U.S.’ inadequate supply of remdesivir is due to Gilead’s monopoly control on the drug and its refusal to allow generic competition and increased manufacturing in the country. Gilead’s monopoly also is severely affecting other countries.
The corporation’s agreement this summer with the U.S. and the European Union to supply remedesivir through the end of September will leave only about 15,300 doses available for the rest of the world, according to Public Citizen estimates.
By using data from international medical consortiums, Public Citizen estimates that about 600,000 patients may be hospitalized with severe COVID-19 in the excluded countries through September, therefore hundreds of thousands of these patients may be eligible for treatment with remdesivir, but unable to access it due to Gilead’s monopoly. Gilead has given permission to some generic manufacturers to sell remdesivir in some low- and middle-income countries, but the licensing agreements also exclude many countries.
“Patents have no place in a pandemic,” said Zain Rizvi, law and policy researcher with Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program and author of the report. “Governments in the U.S. and around the world should permit generic suppliers of promising COVID-19 treatments and vaccines to meet global need.”