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Article

23 Mar 2020

Author:
Lee Fang & Sharon Lerner, The Intercept

Coronavirus treatment developed by Gilead Sciences granted "rare disease" status, potentially limiting affordability

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[T]he Food and Drug Administration granted Gilead Sciences “orphan” drug status for its antiviral drug, remdesivir. The designation allows the pharmaceutical company to profit exclusively for seven years from the product, which is one of dozens being tested as a possible treatment for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus... Experts warn that the designation, reserved for treating “rare diseases,” could block supplies of the antiviral medication from generic drug manufacturers and provide a lucrative windfall for Gilead... The distinction could severely limit supply of remdesivir by granting Gilead Sciences exclusive protection over the drug and complete control of its price.

... James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, a watchdog on pharmaceutical patent abuse [said]: “They’re talking about potentially half the population of the United States,” said Love, adding that “it’s absurd that this would happen in the middle of an epidemic when everything is in short supply.”... Today, Gilead abruptly announced that it would no longer provide emergency access to remdesivir, telling the New York Times that “overwhelming demand” left it unable to process requests for the drug through its compassionate use program. Hours later, the FDA gave the drug orphan status. Almost immediately, Gilead’s stock price shot up.

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