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Becerra Asking US To Step In To Increase Coronavirus Drug Supply, Decrease Cost

Stoppers are placed on filled vials of the experimental drug remdesivir at a ...

Photo by Gilead Sciences AP

Above: Stoppers are placed on filled vials of the experimental drug remdesivir at a Gilead Sciences factory in this undated photo.

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California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra is calling on the federal government to increase the availability and decrease the price of Remdesivir, the only drug given FDA authorization to treat COVID-19.

Aired: August 5, 2020 | Transcript

California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra is calling on the federal government to increase the availability and decrease the price of remdesivir, the only drug given FDA authorization to treat COVID-19.

Because of limited supplies, a National Institute of Health panel recommends prioritizing the drug for hospitalized patients who require supplemental oxygen but are not on ventilators because there is uncertainty about whether those patients would benefit from the drug.

RELATED: California’s Gilead Says Drug Helped Moderately Ill Coronavirus Patients

Remdesivir’s Northern California-based manufacturer Gilead Sciences priced a round of treatment at about $3,000. According to news reports, generic versions of the drug are being priced below $100 but are not available in the United States.

Becerra and other attorneys general sent a letter to federal agencies Tuesday asking them to license out the drug to other producers since it was developed in part with taxpayer dollars.

"Gilead is unable to assure a supply of Remdesivir sufficient to alleviate the health and safety needs of the country amid this pandemic. Its supply is dangerously limited and its recent announcement of high prices for all patients, governments, and insurers will impede access to treatment in the U.S. and further strain state budgets. Therefore, we respectfully urge the federal government to exercise its rights under the Bayh-Dole Act, which will allow the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the FDA to ensure that Americans can afford and access a sufficient supply of remdesivir during this pandemic," Becerra and 31 other attorneys general wrote.

RELATED: Remdesivir Priced At More Than $3,100 For A Course Of Treatment

In an emailed statement a spokesman for Gilead said it, "Is investing more than $1 billion this year to expand its manufacturing capacity for Remdesivir, including bringing onboard numerous manufacturing partners around the world, and plans to invest significantly more in 2021 if needed. This will enable Gilead to manufacture two million courses of therapy this year to meet and exceed actual projected patient demand for Remdesivir."

The Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties said it has not seen a shortage in the region but appreciates any advocacy efforts to boost supply.

Becerra spoke to KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento in an interview that aired on Midday Edition on Wednesday.

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