Gilead to Charge $4,550 Per Patient for Typical Covid-19 Treatment

Photo: Ulrich Perrey, Getty
Photo: Ulrich Perrey, Getty

The U.S. pharmaceutical company behind a drug that’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use for covid-19 patients announced today the drug will cost $US3,120 ($4,553) per typical treatment course for individuals with private insurance plans.

Gilead Sciences’ experimental antiviral remdesivir was authorised for use by the health agency last month after research indicated the drug could cut the recovery time for hospitalised covid-19 patients by several days when compared with a placebo group in a controlled trial. In an open letter about the drug’s pricing — which will have two tiers in the U.S. — Gilead CEO and Chairman Daniel O’Day said most patients will receive a five-day treatment course using six vials of the drug.

Gilead has set a price of $US390 ($569) per vial for governments of “developed countries,” a price the company says will help avoid country-by-country price negotiations that could delay access. Private insurance companies in the U.S., meanwhile, will be charged $US520 ($759) per vial. That puts the total per patient treatment costs $US2,340 ($3,415) and $US3,120 ($4,553), respectively. These prices, O’Day argued, were “well below” the company-estimated value of the drug, which includes savings to hospitals of roughly $US12,000 ($17,510) per patient.

“In making our decision on how to price remdesivir, we considered the full scope of our responsibilities,” O’Day said. “We started with our immediate responsibility to ensure price is in no way a hindrance to ensuring rapid and broad treatment. We also balanced that with our longer-term responsibilities: to continue with our ongoing work on remdesivir, to maintain our long-term research in antivirals and to invest in scientific innovation that might help generations to come.”

According to CNBC, a Department of Health and Human Services official said on a conference call this week that out-of-pocket costs to individuals with private insurance would depend on their specific plans. Uninsured people, meanwhile, would be covered by the CARES Act. The department also announced Monday that it’s secured more than 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir through September, which it said will be distributed to hospitals based on the need of their state and territorial health departments.