“Taxpayers provided funding for the development of this drug. Now Gilead is price-gouging off it during a pandemic. Beyond disgusting,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Consumer advocates reacted with disgust Monday to an announcement by Gilead Sciences that it will charge U.S. hospitals around $3,120 per privately insured patient for a treatment course of remdesivir, a drug which has proven modestly effective at speeding Covid-19 recovery times.
“Allowing Gilead to set the terms during a pandemic represents a colossal failure of leadership by the Trump administration.”
—Peter Maybarduk, Public Citizen
Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program, called Gilead’s pricing—which works out to around $520 per dose for non-government buyers like hospitals—”an offensive display of hubris and disregard for the public” and slammed the Trump administration for failing to ensure that the price of a drug developed with substantial taxpayer support is affordable for all.
Maybarduk pointed to Institute for Clinical and Economic Review research showing Gilead could still make a profit by pricing remdesivir at $310 per course.
“Gilead has priced at several thousand dollars a drug that should be in the public domain. For $1 per day, remdesivir can be manufactured at scale with a reasonable profit,” Maybarduk said in a statement. “Gilead did not make remdesivir alone. Public funding was indispensable at each stage, and government scientists led the early drug discovery team. Allowing Gilead to set the terms during a pandemic represents a colossal failure of leadership by the Trump administration.”
Public Citizen estimated in a May report that U.S. taxpayers contributed at least $70.5 million to the development of remdesivir.
US taxpayers spent $70,000,000 developing this drug. This is an absolute robbery. https://t.co/6qSMOlmqWF
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) June 29, 2020
Shortly after Gilead’s announcement, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said it reached an agreement with the pharmaceutical giant to purchase more than 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir for American hospitals.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States is “the only developed country where Gilead will charge two prices”—one for government buyers ($390 per dose) and one for non-government buyers like hospitals ($520 per dose). The typical remdesivir treatment course consists of around six doses.
“Trump’s refusal to stop pandemic profiteering with a stroke of a pen is a green light to other manufacturers to exploit this tragedy.”
—Rep. Lloyd Doggett
Unlike the U.S., the Journal notes, the governments of other advanced nations “negotiate drug prices directly with drugmakers.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said in a statement that “Trump’s refusal to stop pandemic profiteering with a stroke of a pen is a green light to other manufacturers to exploit this tragedy.”
Doggett said he is pressuring the Trump administration and Gilead to disclose the details of their agreement, including the sum the government paid for the 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir.
On Twitter, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) condemned Gilead’s price-tag as “beyond disgusting.”
“Taxpayers provided funding for the development of this drug. Now Gilead is price-gouging off it during a pandemic,” said Sanders. “Coronavirus treatment must be free to all.”
Trump’s failure on COVID-19 testing and tracking data has led to deaths of 1,700 healthcare workers, nurses union report shows
The largest nurses' union in the U.S. revealed Monday that the federal government's failure to track and report data on Covid-19 deaths has led to the deaths of at least 1,700 healthcare workers while leaving medical facilities with little incentive "to avoid becoming zones of infection."
In its report, "Sins of Omission: How Government Failures to Track Covid-19 Data Have Led to More Than 1,700 Healthcare Worker Deaths and Jeopardize Public Health," National Nurses United lists the names of at least 213 registered nurses who have died of complications from Covid-19.
US Democrats come down to $2.2 trillion in new Covid proposal
US Democrats unveiled a $2.2 trillion relief bill Monday to help millions of Americans gutted by the coronavirus pandemic, trimming more than $1 trillion off their earlier version hoping to reach agreement with Republicans after months of stagnation.
In a deeply polarized Congress, the chances of reaching an agreement ahead of the November 3 election have sharply diminished in the past several weeks.
But the top Democrat in Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Trump's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, were poised for a fresh round of negotiations.
The pair spoke briefly by telephone Monday evening "after House Democrats introduced an updated version of the Heroes Act," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hamill said on Twitter. "The two agreed to speak again tomorrow morning."
BUSTED: Trump administration caught by NYT downplaying COVID risks of reopening schools
Yet another bombshell exposé on the Trump administration ignoring its own scientists was published online on Monday evening.
"Top White House officials pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer to play down the risk of sending children back to school, a strikingly political intervention in one of the most sensitive public health debates of the pandemic," The New York Times reported. "As part of their behind-the-scenes effort, White House officials also tried to circumvent the C.D.C. in a search for alternate data showing that the pandemic was weakening and posed little danger to children."