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Gilead says it will be able to make enough remdesivir to meet global coronavirus demand in October

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A lab technician visually inspects a filled vial of investigational coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug remdesivir at a Gilead Sciences facility in La Verne, California.

Gilead Sciences | via REUTERS

Gilead Sciences will be able to make enough of its antiviral drug remdesivir to meet global demand due to the coronavirus pandemic in October, the biotech firm said Thursday.

Additionally, Gilead said it plans to produce more than 2 million treatment courses of the drug by the end of the year and anticipates being able to produce “several million more” in 2021, adding it has increased supply of the drug more than “50-fold” since January.

There are no FDA-approved drugs for the coronavirus, which has infected more than 18 million people worldwide and killed at least 710,136 in about seven months, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

But doctors have been using the intravenous drug, which was developed to treat HIV, on Covid-19 patients in recent months. Research has shown it’s helped shorten the recovery time of some hospitalized coronavirus patients. In May, the FDA granted remdesivir an emergency use authorization, allowing hospitals and doctors to use the drug on hospitalized Covid-19 patients even though the drug has not been formally approved by the agency.

In May, Gilead said it struck a licensing agreement with five generic drugmakers to make antiviral drug remdesivir for 127 countries, not including the United States, that face health-care obstacles amid the coronavirus pandemic. That agreement has since expanded to nine drugmakers and the companies are beginning the manufacturing process, Gilead said Thursday. 

During a conference call discussing the company’s earnings last week, Gilead executives said they expect to sell 1 million to 1.5 million treatment courses of the drug this year.

Gilead is selling remdesivir for $520 per vial in the U.S. to patients with private insurance and $390 per vial to federal insurance programs as well as foreign countries. The majority of patients treated with remdesivir receive a five-day treatment course using six vials of remdesivir, the company has said.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced June 29 a deal that gives the U.S. more than 500,000 treatment courses of the antiviral drug for U.S. hospitals through September. That represents 100% of Gilead’s projected production for July and 90% of production for August and September, according to the agency.

The U.S. government collects data from hospitals on the number of Covid-19 patients to determine how much of the antiviral drug should be sent to each state or region.

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