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The U.S. has purchased virtually all of the stockpile of the promising treatment that could speed the recovery of Covid-19 patients, leaving none for other countries around the world, reports The Guardian.
Remdesivir, the first drug approved by the competent authorities in the United States to treat Covid-19, is manufactured by the American laboratory Gilead. It has been shown to help patients recover more quickly from the disease. The first 140,000 doses, provided for drug trials worldwide, have already been used up. The Trump administration has now purchased more than 500,000 doses, representing the total production of Gilead for the month of July and 90% of the production for the months of August and September.
" President Trump has reached an incredible agreement to guarantee Americans access to the first approved therapy for Covid-19, " said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. He continued: " To the extent possible, we want to make sure that any American patient who needs a refill will be able to get it. The Trump Administration is doing everything in our power to learn more about life-saving treatments for Covid-19 and to ensure access to these options for the American people. ".
In an open letter released Monday, Gilead boss Daniel O'Day says he has set " a price of $390 per vial " to be paid " to governments in developed countries ", or about 2,000 euros for a typical five-day treatment.
Stubbornly sticking to his " America First " logic, Trump took out the checkbook to get his hands on all the stocks of this drug, one of the most promising to fight Covid-19. In doing so, there is no longer a single box available for other countries in the world, including Europe. " They have access to most of the drugs [from remevisir], so there's nothing for Europe, " Katie Bays, co-founder of the consulting firm Sandhill Strategy, said The Guardian.
Resuscitation would get people out of hospital faster, reducing the burden on the resuscitation department, and could improve survival, Dr. Hill said, although this has not yet been demonstrated in trials, as is the case with the other successful treatment, the steroid dexamethasone. There has been no attempt to purchase the world's supply of dexamethasone because there is no need - the drug is 60 years old and therefore off patent, it is cheap and readily available everywhere.
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Remdesivir, which was originally invented to fight (unsuccessfully) Ebola, is patented by Gilead, which means that no other company in the world has the right to manufacture it. This case raises the issue of making available, as a public good, medicines for devastating diseases. Vaccines are in the same situation, and a few weeks ago we saw the attempt by the American administration to get its hands on the French company Sanofi's vaccine stocks.
The logic of a state monopoly on a vital drug raises not only ethical questions but also legal questions about patents. Most Western countries are very attached to the protection of intellectual property for obvious questions of reciprocity. But there is increasing pressure to enforce so-called compulsory licensing, which takes precedence - under certain conditions - over the intellectual property rights of the company holding a patent. This would allow states willing to violate the sacrosanct rules of intellectual property to manufacture without the consent of the patent-holding company or to source from generic manufacturers in Bangladesh or India, where Gilead's patent is not recognized.
Trump's unilateral decision is, beyond its abject selfishness, the prefiguration of global tensions over the patents of medical products and the ability of States to guarantee the health of their populations. It also raises important questions of international politics, because the State that holds the keys to an indispensable medicine has an unparalleled power of persuasion, pressure and retaliation. In doing so, the world will increasingly resemble a Wild West landscape.
Source : The Guardian