The US has secured 500,000 doses of the coronavirus drug Remdesivir through the end of September, virtually the entire production run by manufacturer Gilead Sciences (GILD), the federal heath department said Monday.
The announcement came as confirmed COVID-19 deaths worldwide topped 500,000, a quarter of them in the U.S.
Remdesivir will be distributed every two weeks directly to hospitals based on in-patient data, and allocations will be revised every two weeks, a senior health official told reporters in a conference call.
Hospitals will pay for the drug, which Gilead guarantees will be no more than the wholesale cost of $3,200 for a course of treatment. AmerisourceBergen will handled the shipments.
“It’s been a scarce resource,” the official said. “We want it to be distributed equally and fairly to all patients in hospitals across the country.”
None of the doses will be reserved for a second wave of the infection that medical experts are predicting for the winter, he said.
More doctors, the official said, are reducing the number of days that they administer the drug based on research data showing more improvement after five days rather than 10 days. The drug is given intravenously, but the company is working on a spray version.
“To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any 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 secure access to these options for the American people,” Health Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
The deal includes all 94,200 doses that Gilead expects to produce in July and roughly 90% of what the company expects to put out in August and September — 174,900 and 232,800, respectively.
Gilead has donated about 125,000 doses over the past two months, and 2% had been held back in the strategic reserve. The government plans to ship the last of the donated doses – 4,589 – this week.
The health department hopes other therapeutics will be available by October, the official told reporters.
The Food and Drug Administration has authorized emergency use of Remdesivir but hasn’t made clear when final approval might come.
Remdesivir was developed to treat hepatitis C and also was tested as a treament for both the Ebola and Marburg viruses, but proved ineffective against all three.
At 10:30 a.m. EDT, Gilead was trading more than 2.3% higher at $76.25.