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COVID-19 drug remdesivir may cost over $3,000 per treatment

Consumers will pay different prices depending on their health benefits coverage

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Photo (c) digicomphoto - Getty Images
Gilead Sciences has disclosed what it plans to charge for its experimental antiviral drug remdesivir, which has gained emergency federal authorization for use to treat the coronavirus (COVID-19).

As with nearly all drug prices, it’s not a simple formula. The drugmaker will charge hospitals more than it charges the government. 

A Wall Street Journal analysis shows the typical hospital patient with commercial insurance would be charged $3,120 for an average course of treatment, but what the consumer ends up paying would depend on their health benefits coverage.

The government would pay the lowest price for people covered by Medicare and Medicaid. The cost would be $390 per dose, which works out to $2.340 for the shortest treatment period. For cases that take longer to treat, the total cost could be $4.290.

Hospital patients receiving the shortest course of remdesivir would be charged $520 per dose, or $3,120 for the shortest treatment course. The cost could total more than $5,000 for cases requiring a longer treatment period.

Possible pushback

The drug company could face some serious pushback from consumer groups and some members of Congress. Late last month, Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program, made the argument that Gilead relied on help and funding from the U.S. government to develop remdesivir.

“Gilead did not make this drug alone,” he said. “Public funding was indispensable, and government scientists led the early drug discovery team. It appears the public owns its stake.”

Maybarduk said the government has an obligation to ensure that remdesivir is priced affordably and does not stretch health care budgets during the pandemic.

Measuring the value to health care systems

Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day told The Journal that the drug is priced below the value it will bring to health care systems, noting it reduces a hospital’s cost of treating COVID-19 patients.

Remdesivir is currently being used in hospitals, on an experimental basis, to treat seriously ill patients. It is also still in the clinical trial process, with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval still pending. In early June, the company announced results from a Phase 3 clinical trial that showed promising results on patients with a moderate form of COVID-19.

The company said the study demonstrated that patients in a five-day remdesivir treatment group were 65 percent more likely to have clinical improvement at Day 11 compared with those who were not receiving the drug.

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