US hoards world's entire supply of breakthrough coronavirus drug remdesivir

The United States has hoarded almost the entire next three month’s supply of breakthrough coronavirus drug remdesivir for itself. Donald Trump’s administration has bought the next 500,000 doses of the anti-viral treatment from manufacturer Gilead, leaving none for the rest of the world.

That represents Gilead’s entire production run for July, and 90% of all the remdesivir it will manufacture throughout August and September. A total of 140,000 doses were previously given to drug trials across the world which established the treatment’s success.

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar hailed the buy-up Tuesday, saying: ‘President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorized therapeutic for Covid-19.

‘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.’

Trump has long vowed to put America first in his diplomatic dealings. But the remdesivir stockpiling has alarmed health experts elsewhere, with other countries including the UK and those in Europe left without one of the only two drugs so-far approved to treat coronavirus patients.

Dr Andrew Hill from the University of Liverpool told The Guardian: ‘They’ve got access to most of the drug supply (of remdesivir), so there’s nothing for Europe.’ Remdesivir is under Gilead’s patent, meaning no other drug company can manufacture its own supplies.

The pharmaceutical giant first devised it as an ultimately unsuccessful treatment for Ebola, and now plans to charge American patients $3,200 for six doses. White House immunologist Dr Anthony Fauci announced remdesivir had been approved as an emergency treatment in April.

It cannot cure or prevent Covid-19, but hospitalized patients given the drug were found to recover 31% faster than those who weren’t. Remdesivir also helped reduce the proportion of hospital patients who died of coronavirus from 11% to 8%.

Research teams across the world continue to work on a vaccine that can prevent coronavirus. Earlier this month, British scientists revealed that the steroid dexamethasone also works as an effective coronavirus treatment.

The drug is 60 years old, cheap and widely available.

America has seen a huge spike in coronavirus cases in the last two weeks, with states which rushed to reopen including Texas, Florida and Arizona all experiencing record one-day diagnosis numbers.

The US has seen over 2.6million coronavirus diagnoses, with close to 130,000 people killed by Covid-19.

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