Gilead says remdesivir coronavirus treatment will need a ‘sustainable model’ to keep it accessible

Gilead Sciences is doing its best to make experimental antiviral drug remdesivir accessible and affordable to coronavirus patients, but the company will eventually need to transition to a more “sustainable model,” its chief executive Daniel O’Day said on Friday.

“We understand our responsibility both to patients and also to shareholders and we’ll be balancing that,” O’Day said during an interview with CNBC.

Gilead has said it is set to donate 1.5 million doses of its drug to patients hospitalised with coronavirus. However, O’Day noted that the research and manufacturing of the drug need investment.

During the first quarter, the drugmaker spent $50 million on the research and development of remdesivir, according to its earnings report released on Thursday, adding that it would spend as much as $1 billion for the year.

“There is no playbook for this situation that we’re in today,” O’Day said.

“This is the time for us all as an industry, especially Gilead, to do the right thing.”

On Wednesday, Gilead announced positive preliminary results from its clinical trial of remdesivir, showing at least 50 percent of coronavirus patients treated with a five-day dosage of the drug improved. The clinical trial involved 397 patients with severe cases of coronavirus. The severe study is “single-arm,” meaning it did not evaluate the drug against a control group of patients who didn’t receive the drug, the company added.

In addition, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also released results from its own study on Wednesday as it showed that coronavirus patients who took remdesivir usually recovered after 11 days, four days faster than those who didn’t take the drug.

Gilead expects to produce more than 140,000 rounds of its 10-day treatment regimen by the end of May and anticipates it could make up to 1 million rounds by the end of this year. The company said it will be able to produce “several million” rounds of its antiviral drug by 2021.

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