Pa. Treasurer, 10 other state treasurers call on Gilead to lower price of COVID-19 drug | Health | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pa. Treasurer, 10 other state treasurers call on Gilead to lower price of COVID-19 drug

In late June, pharmaceutical company Gilead set its price for remdesivir, an antiviral drug that has been shown to diminish the recovery time of patients hospitalized due to COVID-19. For Americans with private insurance, remdesivir costs $520 per dose, and $390 per dose for those with government-subsidized insurance.

Patients typically have received a five-day treatment of the drug, which means patients with private insurance would pay more than $3,100 and those with subsidized-insurances would pay more than $2,300.

Considering remdesivir was fast tracked by federal regulators, a bipartisan group of state treasurers is calling on Gilead to lower the cost of the drug, so patients across the country can afford it without going into debt. There have been hundreds of thousands, potentially millions, of hospitalizations in the U.S. because of coronavirus.

The effort to pressure California-based Gilead to lower its prices is being led by Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella (D-Philadelphia) and Republican Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague.

“Gilead has a responsibility to its customers, shareholders, and to the taxpayers not to take advantage of these heartbreaking circumstances,” said Torsella in a press release. “American taxpayers have already paid the price. They deserve an affordable treatment when loved ones face the most severe cases of COVID-19. I urge Gilead to be a part of our nation’s recovery by putting patients first and pricing remdesivir fairly.”

All signatories of the letter to Gilead are from states that are shareholders of Gilead. That means they have some speaking on voting power at Gilead corporate board meetings. (Torsella and other treasures are using a similar strategy to attempt to pressure Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to step down as company board chair.)

This isn’t the first time Gilead has come under fire for its pricing. Last month, a bipartisan group of state attorneys general also criticized Gilead and called its pricing of the drug "outrageous and unconscionable,” according to ABC News.

A spokesperson for Gilead told ABC News that the company was "disappointed by the mischaracterization of the development and pricing” and maintains that the drug’s value in saving hospital costs far offsets the upfront costs of taking the five-day treatment.

"We have set a price for [remdesivir] that is significantly below the value it provides to healthcare systems and patients, and in a way that will facilitate patients’ rapid access to the drug,” said a Gilead spokesperson.

A day after the attorneys general called out Gilead, Torsella brought greater attention to the pricing in a viral tweet that said each treatment of remdesivir only costs approximately $1 per vital to produce, according to the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review.
Additionally, the U.S. government provided about $70 million in funding for the development of the drug beginning in 2015, when remdesivir was initially proposed to be used as an antiviral against Ebola.

“In these challenging times, we must keep our focus on doing what’s right for the health and safety of all Americans,” said Sprague in a press release. “It’s important that Gilead brings forward affordable solutions to Americans as our country continues to fight COVID-19. We’re all in this together.”

Treasurers Torsella and Sprague are joined by:
  • Zach Conine, Nevada State Treasurer
  • Henry E. M. Beck, Maine State Treasurer
  • Michael L. Fitzgerald, Iowa State Treasurer
  • Tobias Read, Oregon State Treasurer
  • Dave Young, Colorado State Treasurer
  • Sarah Godlewski, Wisconsin State Treasurer
  • Glenn Hegar, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
  • Deborah B. Goldberg, Massachusetts State Treasurer
  • Seth Magaziner, Rhode Island State Treasurer

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