Pfizer Teams up with Gilead to Make Remdesivir

11.08.2020 - After teaming up with Germany’s BioNTech to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, US drugs giant Pfizer is joining US Gilead Sciences on the therapeutic side. The biopharma company’s antiviral remdesivir is currently favored as a treatment for the novel coronavirus.

Gilead received the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization for remdesivir to treat Covid-19 in May this year after studies showed that, administered via IV, it could cut death risks and recovery time in severe cases.

Pfizer will produce remdesivir at its plant in McPherson, Kansas and join a group of around 40 companies on three continents that have signed up to join the manufacturing effort to meet an expected surge in global demand beginning in October.

In the US, around a third of hospital pharmacies said in a recent study they did not have sufficient supply of remdesivir to treat all the patients who need it.

Gilead expects to spend $1 billion to scale up manufacturing of the drug this year, and hopes to be able to make 2 million treatment courses in 2020 as a whole. In a statement last week, the company said it had shortened the drug's production timeline to six months.

With manufacturing issues apparently settled, attention is now turning to pricing of the antiviral. After donating 1.5 million doses, Gilead said it would charge $3,120 per course for most US patients, with rebates agreed for nationally supported health care plans. Even at that price, it insists that all Covid sufferers will have access, and noting also that patients leaving hospital earlier could save insurers money.

Analysts have predicted that the drugmaker could see a multibillion-dollar windfall from the medicine. That bothers US state attorneys general. A number have written to Gilead’s management saying the drug is too expensive, while suggesting they would seek a work-around to sidestep the company’s patents.  Gilead argues that this would be “unauthorized”.