WASHINGTON -- Gilead will begin charging U.S. patients for the experimental COVID-19 drug remdesivir in two weeks, the company and the government announced Monday, as cases surge and hospitalizations reach crisis levels in several states.
Remdesivir is among the few drugs with promising evidence that it can help COVID-19 patients, with data showing it can modestly hasten recovery time in some people but is not proven to prevent deaths. The coronavirus-related disease has led to at least 502,634 worldwide deaths.
The company initially donated a six-week supply of the drug to states and territories. The final cases of donated supply will ship Monday, senior administration officials said.
Patients with private insurance will be charged $3,120 for a five-day course of treatment. That's $520 per vial. The company will charge patients on government health plans like Medicare $2,340 for a five-day course of treatment, or $390 per vial. The amount patients will pay out of pocket will vary depending on insurance coverage.
It's not clear what uninsured patients will be charged, but senior Trump administration officials indicated on a call with reporters Monday that treatment for uninsured individuals could be paid for through a $100 billion fund approved by Congress to compensate hospitals for lost revenue.
The Department of Health and Human Services made an agreement with the company to identify hospitals that need remdesivir through September. Federal and state health officials will help direct all of Gilead's U.S. supply of remdesivir through July and 90 percent of remdesivir through August and September.
Hospitals will purchase supplies of the drug from Gilead's distributor AmerisourceBergen. It's not clear yet what hospitals will pay. "We don't have visibility into those contracts," said Gilead spokesperson Sonia Choi.
The government is not purchasing the drug, senior administration officials clarified. The Strategic National Stockpile has no plans to acquire and safeguard its own supply of the drug.
The opaque process that HHS and AmerisourceBergen developed for distributing the donated supply of remdesivir led to confusion and frustration among hospitals that didn't receive it.
The drug is administered by infusion and has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA made the drug available to treat patients with severe disease for the duration of the pandemic under an emergency use authorization.