ATLANTA – Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff called on the federal government Thursday to make remdesivir, the only drug authorized for emergency use in treating COVID-19, available to patients at no out-of-pocket cost.
In a three-page policy paper released in advance of a virtual town hall appearance Thursday evening, Ossoff argued that remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. with at least $70 million in federal assistance, is priced out of reach of many Americans suffering from coronavirus.
“No one should die or go bankrupt in the wealthiest country in the world because they cannot afford health care,” Ossoff said. “It is vital during this pandemic that every American can get coronavirus treatment without financial hardship.”
Clinical trials have found that a course of up to 10 days of treatment with remdesivir shortened the recovery time for some adults hospitalized with COVID-19.
Gilead plans to charge patients in the U.S. with private insurance up to $3,120 for the full course of treatment. While that is 25% more than patients in other developed countries will pay, company officials say the price is reasonable.
“At the level we have priced remdesivir and with government programs in place, along with additional Gilead assistance as needed, we believe all patients will have access,” Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day wrote in an open letter late last month.
Health-care advocacy groups and financial analysts have given mixed reviews to the U.S. price. While some accuse Gilead of price gouging, others note the price represents a savings compared to what it would cost patients to spend extra days in a hospital intensive care unit they could have avoided by taking remdesivir.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced late last month the purchase of a stockpile of 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir, the supply Gilead plans to manufacture in July, August and September. The federal government is managing the distribution of the drug to hospitals, which then resell it to patients.
Ossoff also is asking the Trump administration to require Gilead and other pharmaceutical companies to set “reasonable and affordable prices” for COVID-19 treatments. And he called on Congress to include the necessary funding for remdesivir in the next coronavirus relief bill.
Ossoff won the Democratic nomination last month to oppose incumbent Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in November.
The virtual town hall will be conducted alongside Savannah Alderman Kurtis Purtee.