• 43°

Guest Opinion: Why are people complaining about innovative COVID treatments?

By Peter J. Pits

Gilead Sciences just announced it will charge $3,120 for a full course of Remdesivir, the first new FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19. Some knee-jerk members of Congress like Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) immediately condemned that price tag as “outrageous.” The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, a left-leaning nonprofit that releases its own recommendations of “fair” drug prices, claimed that Gilead could afford to price Remdesivir as low as $10 per course of treatment – the cost of the raw ingredients used to make the drug.

Ignorance is not bliss. These critics couldn’t be more misinformed. Gilead priced Remdesivir lower than the drug’s actual value. And while it’s no silver bullet, it’s currently our best hope of saving hospitalized patients and reducing strain on our hospitals – a particularly important goal in light of the surging case counts in many states.

Remdesivir isn’t a vaccine. It prevents the virus from replicating within the body. In a Phase III clinical trial, patients who received Remdesivir recovered 31% faster from COVID-19 than those who did not, a decrease from 15 days to 11 days.

Of course, developing Remdesivir wasn’t easy or inexpensive. By the end of 2020, Gilead will have spent $1 billion doing so. The firm began development in 2009, originally intending to use the antiviral to treat Ebola. That enormous investment of time and money helps explain Gilead’s price. Just like any business, it needs to recoup its investment costs.

Here’s the real headline: Gilead didn’t even try to maximize its profits. According to Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day, drug companies normally price their treatments based on how much the medicines save health-care and insurance providers. Reducing each patient’s hospital stay by four days, on average, would save about $12,000. In other words, Gilead could have charged almost $9,000 more. They didn’t.

Gilead didn’t merely leave profits on the table. The firm also provided Remdesivir’s genetic marker to 127 developing countries, allowing foreign manufacturers to create generic versions for local use. In addition to directly healing patients, Remdesivir saves lives by shortening average recovery times, freeing up hospital beds and enabling doctors to treat other patients who might otherwise go without adequate care.

You don’t have to be a math whiz to see the value there. Considering that Arizona, Florida, California and other states continue to report record numbers of COVID-19 cases, keeping hospital beds open must be a top priority. Criticizing the price of the only effective treatment we currently have is misguided at best and ideologically deranged at worst.

Though by no means a cure, Remdesivir helps patients recover faster and eases pressure on hospitals. What’s really “outrageous” are the bad-faith arguments from lawmakers who never pass up an opportunity to attack drug companies. Let’s hope ordinary citizens can see who’s really working to protect patients, and who’s merely demagoguing.

Peter Pitts, a former FDA associate commissioner, is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, which is partially funded by pharmaceutical companies.

FOR MORE COLUMNS AND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, CHECK OUT OUR OPINION SECTION HERE.

Lifestyles

River Town Christmas events planned in Columbia

Crime

Fugitive wanted in Richmond apprehended in Currituck County

Lifestyles

Santa Claus is coming to Manteo

News

Investigators look into two bodies found on Fort Bragg

Crime

Pursuit leads to two arrests in Currituck County

News

North Carolina store owner cited for discouraging masks

Crime

Police: 18-year-olds charged with assaulting couple at North Carolina mall

News

Lon Adams, Slim Jim jerky recipe creator, dies of COVID-19 complications

News

Lowack elected KDH Zoning Board of Adjustment chair; board hears from two exemption applicants

News

Virtual meeting on Rodanthe Bridge set for Thursday

Currituck

4-H project book training set

News

North Carolina to get 85,000 initial Pfizer COVID vaccine doses

News

Thirty-seven additional positive COVID-19 test results reported in Dare

Crime

FBI searches for ‘Too Tall Bandit’ suspected in 16 bank robberies

News

US appeals court rules judge wrongly halted NC voter ID

Hyde

Food box distribution Thursday for Hyde County

Lifestyles

WinterLights: Holiday displays bring a decade of cheer

Lifestyles

Free health screenings for those in fishing industry

News

State and local COVID-19 case count update; additional COVID-related death reported in Dare

News

2017 ban on local LGBT ordinances ends in North Carolina

News

Additional COVID-19 death reported in Bertie County

Crime

Deputies: Woman shot man, robbed store in North Carolina crime spree

News

Criminal record, sentence changes among new North Carolina laws

Currituck

Currituck 4-H program helps with weekend meals for students in need