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US buys up world stock of key Covid-19 drug remdesivir

The US has bought up virtually all the stocks for the next three months of one of the two drugs proven to work against Covid-19, leaving none for the UK, Europe or most of the rest of the world, The Guardian reports.

Experts and campaigners are alarmed both by the US unilateral action on remdesivir and the wider implications, for instance in the event of a vaccine becoming available.

“They’ve got access to most of the drug supply [of remdesivir], so there’s nothing for Europe,” said Dr Andrew Hill, senior visiting research fellow at Liverpool University.

Remdesivir, the first drug approved by licensing authorities in the US to treat Covid-19, is made by Gilead and has been shown to help people recover faster from the disease.

The first 140,000 doses, supplied to drug trials around the world, have been used up. The Trump administration has now bought more than 500,000 doses, which is all of Gilead’s production for July and 90% of August and September.

“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19,” said the US health and human services secretary, Alex Azar.

“To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it. The Trump administration is doing everything in our power to learn more about life-saving therapeutics for Covid-19 and secure access to these options for the American people,” he said.

The drug, which was invented for Ebola but failed to work, is under patent to Gilead, which means no other company in wealthy countries can make it. The cost is around $3,200 per treatment of six doses, according to the US government statement.

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