A coalition of attorneys general (AG) have requested the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to invoke a federal patent law to lower prices of remdesivir for COVID-19, with the hopes that this will also increase the supply of the drug. The bipartisan group has addressed the HHS, FDA and NIH and requested these federal agencies to retain patent rights from Gilead Sciences, the developers of remdesivir, to ease potential shortages and lower the drug’s prices.
According to reporting in USA Today, the attorneys general letter stated “The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act allows federal agencies to retain patent rights if a drug company charges too much or fails to reasonably ‘alleviate health or safety needs’ of consumers”. If federal agencies refuse the request, the group wants “march-in” rights to be assigned to states.
AG members of the coalition are publicly stating that they believe Gilead’s pricing is not reasonable, and that drug prices cannot be left to market forces when the research was funded in part by taxpayer dollars. Other coalition members stated that Gilead has failed to meet public health and safety needs. The letter is signed by attorneys general of 31 states.
Gilead has responded with a strongly worded statement disputing the AG claim that there won’t be enough remdesivir, since the drug will only be used in the more severe cases. Their statement notes their $1 billion investment to expand manufacturing capacity, including partnering with multiple other manufacturing partners globally. The company expects to manufacture 2 million courses of therapy, expected to meet or exceed projected patient demand. Clinical trials on remdesivir have shown that 74% of patients receiving the drug recovered by day 14 of hospitalization compared with 59% of those who did not get the drug, and remdesivir patients had lower mortality rates than those who did not receive the treatment.
(Source: Alltucker K, USA Today, August 4, 2020).