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Fears for British coronavirus patients as the United States purchases almost ALL of the world's stock of remdesivir


Donald Trump was accused today of "undermining" the global fight against coronavirus by buying up almost all of the global supply of remdesivir – one of only two drugs approved to treat Covid-19 in the NHS.

Secretary of Commerce Nadhim Zahawi criticized the US President's decision to compete with the rest of the world for the medicines that were originally developed to treat Ebola, but have been shown to reduce recovery time for coronavirus patients.

Zahawi told Sky News: "It is much better to work together than to undermine each other, so we'll continue with that in mind."

A leading scientist from Oxford University, who was involved in medical studies, called for more equitable access to the drug, which is manufactured by the California pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences.

Last night, it was announced that the United States had bought more than 500,000 cans of remdesivir – making up the entire global supply for July and 90 percent of the shares for August and September.

This means that there are patients in the UK and Europe Access to the drug is unlikely to be widespread by fall.

The United States has purchased almost the entire global range of remdesivir (photo), one of only two drugs that have been shown to be effective against coronavirus

The NHS has two drugs available to treat critically ill Covid 19 patients – the Ebola drug Remdesivir and the anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone.

Dexamethasone, a £ 5 steroid that has been around for decades, was the first drug that has been shown to lower the mortality rate in hospital patients who need oxygen.

Evidence about remdesivir is mixed, but scientific studies have shown that it helps the most seriously ill who need ventilation.

Health minister Matt Hancock called Remdesivir the "biggest step forward" in treating Covid-19 since the outbreak broke out last month.

The UK is currently receiving its remdesivir supplies free of charge as Gilead has signed a contract to donate 1.5 million vials around the world.

Gilead announced earlier this week that it would charge developed country governments $ 390 (£ 320) per vial of remdesivir.

Most hospital patients need six vials of the Ebola drug – that's $ 2,340 (£ 1,900) for each patient, according to the California-based company.

But the program is coming to an end. Gilead CEO Daniel O & # 39; Day revealed the pricing structure in an open letter.

Economy Minister Nadhim Zahawi accused President Donald Trump's government of "undermining" the global fight against the corona virus by making countries compete for drugs that have been shown to help

Economy Minister Nadhim Zahawi accused President Donald Trump's government of "undermining" the global fight against the corona virus by making countries compete for drugs that have been shown to help

The U.S. Department of Health (HHS) announced the deal with Gilead last night. Alex Azar, the United States Secretary of Health, said: "President Trump has made an amazing deal to ensure that Americans have access to the first approved therapeutic for Covid-19."

The U.S. Department of Health (HHS) announced the deal with Gilead last night. Alex Azar, the United States Secretary of Health, said: "President Trump has made an amazing deal to ensure that Americans have access to the first approved therapeutic for Covid-19."

This means that the key drug for critically ill patients across Europe is unlikely to be available until October, raising concerns about coronavirus patients in the UK (Image: Gilead Sciences in California).

This means that the key drug for critically ill patients across Europe is unlikely to be available until October, raising concerns about coronavirus patients in the UK (Image: Gilead Sciences in California).

WHAT IS REMDESIVIR AND DO IT WORK AGAINST COVID-19?

Remdesivir was developed by Gilead Sciences to treat Ebola, the fatal hemorrhagic fever that occurred in West Africa in 2014.

Ebola is caused by a virus like Covid-19, and scientists have tested remdesivir to treat coronavirus patients.

Studies showed encouraging results earlier this year when they were promising for the prevention and treatment of MERS – another coronavirus – in macaque monkeys.

Human studies have led to mixed results.

In a study conducted by the US government, remdesivir reduced recovery time by 31 percent – an average of 11 days compared to 15 days in patients receiving only the usual care.

However, according to preliminary results after two weeks of follow-up, survival had not improved. Results after four weeks are expected soon.

The drug appears to help stop replication of viruses such as coronavirus and Ebola alike.

It is not entirely clear how the drug accomplishes this feat, but it seems to prevent the virus' genetic material, RNA, from copying itself.

This in turn prevents the virus from multiplying in the patient's body.

The U.S. Department of Health announced the controversial deal with Gilead last night.

Alex Azar, the United States Secretary of Health, said: "President Trump has made an amazing deal to ensure that Americans have access to the first approved therapeutic for Covid-19.

& # 39; We want to ensure as much as possible that every American patient who needs remdesivir can get it.

"The Trump administration is doing everything in our power to learn more about life-saving therapeutics for Covid-19 and to give the American people access to these options."

Remdesivir is patented for Gilead, which means that no one else can make the drug without permission.

In Mr. O & # 39; Day's open letter, he revealed that Gilead allowed pharmaceutical companies to supply generics for the drug in 127 low- and middle-income countries.

He wrote that the company set the price for industrialized countries "to ensure broad and equitable access in times of urgent global need."

It wasn't announced which countries this would apply to – and the $ 390 price would apply to Americans covered by state health care.

For U.S. private insurance companies, the cost is $ 520 (£ 420) per vial, or a total of $ 3,120 (£ 2,540) per patient.

The health minister announced the approval of the drug at a press conference in Downing Street in May, saying: “This is probably the greatest advance in the treatment of coronaviruses since the crisis began.

& # 39; These are early steps, but we are determined to support science and support the projects that are promising. As you understand, we will prioritize the use of this treatment where it can bring the greatest benefit. & # 39;

The US government has come under fire for its tactics in the global coronavirus treatment market.

It has shown willingness to outbid other countries and keep supplies to themselves instead of working with them.

French pharmaceutical company Sanofi announced in May that the US would receive its coronavirus vaccine first if it worked, but later changed its mind under pressure from the French government.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned: "We know that it is in our interest to work together and cooperatively for the security of our citizens."

Another option for the UK government would be to use a "compulsory license", which is a legal instrument that can be used to ignore Gilead's patents for the drug.

Generic versions of the drug could be purchased from countries like India that don't recognize the patent.

However, the UK does not like to do so as it would irritate the domestic pharmaceutical industry, which claims that 20 years of copyrights are required to regain the money invested in developing new treatments.

Remdesivir's price has been very controversial as it has been found to benefit from the pandemic, which killed more than 500,000 people worldwide.

The drug affects the ability of the virus to copy its genetic material and prevents the virus from multiplying in the body.

In a study conducted by the US government, remdesivir reduced recovery time by 31 percent – an average of 11 days compared to 15 days in patients receiving only the usual care.

However, according to preliminary results after two weeks of follow-up, survival had not improved. Results after four weeks are expected soon.

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, a nonprofit group that analyzes drug prices, said running a 10-day remdesivir course is likely to cost $ 9.32 (£ 7.60).

"This is a high price for a drug that has not been shown to lower mortality," said Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

"Given the seriousness of the pandemic, I would prefer the government to take over production and distribute the drug for free."

Peter Maybarduk, an attorney for the Public Citizen consumer group, described the price as "outrage".

"Remdesivir should be in the public domain" because it received at least $ 70 million in public funding for its development, he said.

"The price defeats any idea that pharmaceutical companies are" doing the right thing "because it's a pandemic," said Dr. Peter Bach, health policy expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

“The price might have been okay if the company had shown that the treatment saved lives. It didn't. & # 39;

Gilead says it will have spent $ 1 billion to develop and manufacture the drug by the end of this year.

The drug is approved for emergency use in the United States and Gilead has applied for full approval.

The approval of remdesivir by the United Kingdom came more than three weeks after the FDA gave the green light in the United States on May 1st.

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