America First in Potential Coronavirus Drug

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The United States has bought the world’s stock of potential coronavirus drug remdesivir.

President Trump’s administration shocked experts and campaigners alike on June 30th, purchasing virtually all pharmaceutical company Gilead’s COVID-19 trial drug remdesivir stocks for July, as well as 90% of August and September supplies.

“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19,” US Health Secretary Alex Azar said in a recent statement.

Remdesivir was previously trialled to explore potentially beneficial effects against Ebola, however failed to ultimately show any signs of effectiveness in these trials. It has since shown signs of improving the condition of those suffering from COVID-19, speeding up recovery times for patients with the infection. However, it is wholly unclear if the drug actually aids survival rates as of yet.

Remdesivir developed by Gilead, image credit Shutterstock

Although still in its infancy with regards to determining its overall effectiveness against COVID-19 globally, promising remdesivir trial results in not only the US but across Europe, the UK, and Mexico, potentially render this buyout yet another pharmaceutically based targeted, political, business manoeuvre with wide implications around the globe for future drugs and potential cures being distributed and circulated in a cooperative manner.

American pharmaceutical company Gilead had provided 140,000 doses of remdesivir across clinical trials worldwide, yet despite promising results, the States have ended up with a first access pass.

The two main reasons for this monopoly are that Gilead is as mentioned, an American pharmaceutical company. America also has recorded the highest number of deaths and cases of COVID-19 worldwide.

These two factors combined allow for some justification of their exclusive access to purchasing the drug- as some other countries are currently ‘well stocked’. A spokeswoman illustrated that Germany had supplies of the drug, as well as confirmation from other Western countries.

However, many countries in developing nations are drastically low on supplies, and the pharmaceutical industry’s profit driven mark-ups of drugs in the face of a global pandemic sits sour in the mouths of many on the world stage.

In the States the drug treatment will cost approximately $2,340 (£1,900) for a full course, leaving US taxpayers critical of the price, given their tax contributions towards the creation of the drug.

As of the 4th of July, the USA has a total of 132,509 reported deaths from COVID-19, and 2,892,476 reported cases, with new infections at 28 a day. Globally, the virus has taken approximately 523,898 lives on record as of the 4th of July, and there are estimated to be 11,037,625 reported and known cases of the virus worldwide.

With no known cure for the SARS-like virus at present, distribution and access to potentially life-saving drugs is an essential need for populations worldwide. Remdesivir is no cure and may not aid survival rates in advanced cases; it certainly needs wider drug trialling to infer judgement conclusively on benefits or negatives.

Although Gilead did sign a licensing deal to allow remdesivir production in other countries, this manufacturing is still in its early developmental stages, and at the very least the USA’s actions flout a sense of responsibility or global unity for a defiant ‘American First’ stance, a long echoed sentiment in the world of Trump’s United States.

President Trump announcing the acquisition of remdesivir. Image credit Saul Loeb via Getty Images

It is too speculative to infer objective judgement and predictions on how the remdesivir buy up will affect the USA’s COVID-19 relations globally considering that other countries do have access to supplies of the drug at current. However, the implications towards self-interest are somewhat evident.

The United States’ monopoly on the drug has wider implications for drugs and cures in the future; in the event life-saving discoveries are made against COVID-19, can countries be sure that the national patent the drug falls under won’t influence their access to it?

Critics comment that the USA’s actions regarding hoarding the remdesivir fly directly in the face of the spirit of international cooperation against COVID-19; certainly, a pharmaceutical monopoly of this magnitude is a worrying portent of the potential social medical malady to come.

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