All those stories about patients being billed for tens of thousands of dollars for coronavirus-related care elicited promises from the White House that "everything will be covered". Still, as thousands of Americans complain about charges related to COVID-19 testing and care being passed on by their insurance companies, Gilead, the pharmaceutical company that has pushed remdesivir down the world's throat despite the fact that the cheap steroid dexamethasone has proven - in at least one high quality study - more effective at lowering mortality rates, has just published its expected pricetag for a five-dose course of the drug.
On Monday, Gilead disclosed its pricing plan for Gilead as it prepares to begin charging for the drug at the beginning of next month (several international governments have already placed orders). Given the high demand, thanks in part due to the breathless media coverage despite the drug's still-questionable study data, Gilead apparently feels justified in charging $3,120 for a patient getting the shorter, more common, treatment course, and $5,720 for the longer course for more seriously ill patients. These are the prices for patients with commercial insurance in the US, according to Gilead's official pricing plan.
As per usual, the price charged to those on government plans will be lower, and hospitals will also receive a slight discount. Additionally, the US is the only developed country where Gilead will charge two prices, according to Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day. In much of Europe and Canada, governments negotiate drug prices directly with drugmakers (in the US, laws dictate that drug makers must "discount" their drugs for medicare and medicaid plans).
But according to O'Day, the drug is priced "far below the value it brings" to the health-care system.
However, we'd argue that this actually isn't true. Remdesivir was developed by Gilead to treat Ebola, but the drug was never approved by the FDA for this use, which caused Gilead to shelve the drug until COVID-19 presented another opportunity. Even before the first study had finished, the company was already pushing propaganda about the promising nature of the drug. Meanwhile, the CDC, WHO and other organizations were raising doubts about the effectiveness of steroid medications.
Months later, the only study on the steroid dexomethasone, a cheap steroid that costs less than $50 for a 100-dose regimen, has shown that dexomethasone is the only drug so far that has proven effective at lowering COVID-19 related mortality. Remdesivir, despite the fact that it has been tested in several high quality trials, has not.
So, why is the American government in partnership with Gilead still pushing this questionable, and staggeringly expensive, medication on the public?