The pharmaceutical company behind COVID-19 drug remdesivir will be facing intense scrutiny when a sales price is set — with one report figuring it could go for anywhere between $10 to $4,500 per dose.
One consumer advocacy group said even the low end is too high for California-based Gilead to ask, while critics note the drugmaker already has a controversial history of pricing.
Breaking with its usual practices, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, or ICER, an influential nonprofit that analyzes drug pricing, issued an expedited report on remdesivir, NPR reported.
"Under normal circumstances, we would be unlikely to do a report when the evidence is this raw and immature," ICER president Steven Pearson told NPR. "But it was quite clear that the world is moving at a much quicker pace."
If the price is based just on the cost of making the drug, then a 10-day course of remdesivir should cost about $10, the ICER report figured.
But if remdesivir is priced based on the drug's effectiveness, ICER estimates it should cost around $4,500 — assuming the drug is proven to have some benefit on mortality. If the drug only shortens hospital stays, that value-based price goes down to $390, the report figured.
A study from the University of Liverpool, however, calculated $0.93 per dose is the cost of manufacturing remdesivir at scale with a reasonable profit, the Daily Mail reported.
Gilead "will be watched very carefully," Michael Carrier, a Rutgers School of Law professor who specializes in antitrust and pharmaceuticals, told NPR, because of its prior history of pricing.
Two other Gilead drugs that drew scrutiny over the sky-high cost, including the $1,000 per pill price tag for Sovaldi, a cure for hepatitis C. Its HIV drug Truvada can cost $22,000 per year.
"It's hard to imagine a situation in which there will be more public scrutiny," Carrier told NPR. "On the one hand, Gilead will try to recover its R&D in an atmosphere in which it is able to potentially make a lot of money. On the other hand, the pressure will be intense not to charge what's viewed as too high a price."
Consumer advocate group Group Public Citizen argues that remdesivir should be priced at no more than $1 per day.
“If Gilead intends to price remdesivir at more than $1 per day, Gilead must fully disclose its research and development costs and all public contributions associated with remdesivir's development,” Public Citizen said in a statement. “Then payers and independent experts can analyze again what constitutes fair pricing in a pandemic.”
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