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U.S. Government Co-Owns Remdesivir, Taxpayers Shouldn’t Be Cheated

Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program

Note: The Washington Post reported today that according to an analysis by the PrEP4All Collaboration, the U.S. government likely co-owns the core patents for the experimental COVID-19 treatment remdesivir with Gilead Sciences. Public Citizen previously found that public financial support for remdesivir’s development totals at least $70.5 million, through federal grants and clinical trials. Public Citizen has called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release all remdesivir research data and called on Gilead Sciences to price remdesivir at $1 per day or release its cost data to show why the price should be higher.

Gilead has been trying to take the credit for developing remdesivir, but that’s only half the story. The other half is the U.S. government’s partnership in remdesivir’s development. Gilead did not make this drug alone. Public funding was indispensable, and government scientists led the early drug discovery team. It appears the public owns its stake.

Allowing Gilead to set the terms during a pandemic represents a colossal failure of leadership. The U.S. government has authority and a responsibility to steward the technology it owns and helped develop. The FDA should release all the research data so independent experts can assess its safety and efficacy. The government must ensure that remdesivir is priced affordably and does not stretch health care budgets during the pandemic.

The government should insist that Gilead share its patents and know-how worldwide, not only in the countries Gilead chooses, so that qualified manufacturers can help ensure an adequate supply.