Gilead Inc ((NASDAQ:GILD) has had almost all its global supplies of potential coronavirus treatment Remdesivir acquired by the US government.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) said it had bought more than 500,000 doses of the drug, which will mean Gilead sending the drug to the US for the next three months with people in the UK and rest of Europe not able to get supplies until October.
Remdesivir was developed to treat Ebola but trials recently have shown it to be effective in people with severe conditions resulting from coronavirus, cutting the time they spend in intensive care and reducing the virus’s ability to reproduce.
Dr Andrew Hill, a senior visiting research fellow at Liverpool University, told Sky News: "This deal that's been struck by America means that people with COVID-19 in the UK can't get access to these treatments that would get them out of hospital quickly and might improve their chances of survival.”
The investigational antiviral, which is temporarily approved in certain countries as coronavirus treatment, made the headlines on Monday after Gilead priced it at US$390 per vial, making a five-day course cost US$3,120.
Low-income countries can purchase a generic version after the Gilead inked licensing agreements with five manufacturers, but more developed economies have to go through the US pharma giant, which holds the patent.
Clinical trials showed that the antiviral can help patients with moderate pneumonia to recover faster compared to the standard of care over a 5-day course, while the 10-day treatment did not show statistical significance.
Last month, the cheaper and widely available steroid treatment dexamethasone was found to reduce death by up to one third in patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms.