Promising coronavirus treatment granted exclusive status to Gilead Sciences by FDA

"We will not tolerate profiteering. Any treatment or vaccine must be made free for all."

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Image Credit: Commonwealth Fund

A potential treatment for the coronavirus was granted exclusive status to Gilead Sciences by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. Remdesivir, a drug it is developing to treat the illness, is now “orphan” status, which allows the pharmaceutical company to profit exclusively off the drug.

The designation of this drug, which is “generally reserved for drugs that treat rare illnesses affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans,” was eligible for “orphan” status in this case since the rapidly spreading virus had yet to “spread beyond that limit,” Common Dreams reported. On Monday, 40,000 Americans were stricken with the coronavirus when the FDA granted Gilead Sciences exclusive claim. By Tuesday afternoon, confirmed cases in the United States jumped to 51,000.

“It is insane and unacceptable that the Trump administration has given the Gilead pharmaceutical corporation a seven-year monopoly on a potential coronavirus treatment,” Sanders said. “We will not tolerate profiteering. Any treatment or vaccine must be made free for all.”

Gilead Sciences now has the ability to profit off the drug for seven years under the Orphan Drug Act of 1983, which was “passed to ensure medications for rare diseases can be developed, and was meant to benefit companies which may not recoup their research costs after their drugs are put on the market,” Common Dreams reported. The company also has the authority to set price controls on the drug and stop manufacturers from producing generic versions of the drug.

“Remdesivir is one of relatively few medicines that may prove effective in treating COVID-19 this year,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of the group’s Access to Medicines program. “The government should be urgently concerned with its affordability for citizens. Instead, the FDA has handed Gilead, one of the most profitable pharmaceutical corporations on earth, a long and entirely undeserved seven-year monopoly and, with it, the ability to charge outrageous prices to consumers.”

According to The Intercept, “Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir was developed with at least $79 million in U.S. government funding,” a paper published last week by KEI revealed. The drug, which originated from the Ebola outbreak in western Africa in 2014, helped “spurred research into potential antiviral medications to control future potential pandemics.”

But many believe this to be a political scandal since the exclusive status for the drug was handed to Gilead Science the company Joe Grogan, a member of Trump’s “coronaviris task force” worked as a lobbyist from 2011 to 2017.

“This is how pharma greed kills,” ACT UP, a grassroots group committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis, said.

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