By Shola Adewunmi
The US government appears to have finally taken strong action on the coronavirus pandemic raging within its borders – but in doing so has left the rest of the world hanging.
The federal Health and Human Services Department announced the US had bought up what amounts to the entire global supply of remdesivir, the only drug so far shown to help recovering patients.
“(President Donald Trump) has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for COVID-19,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a press release. “To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it.”
US hospitals will be permitted to purchase the drug in allocations from the HHS.However, other Western countries in particular worry about the consequences.Gilead is the only company allowed to manufacture remdesivir, and the US purchase amounted to 100 per cent of Gilead’s projected production for July, 90 per cent of production in August, and 90 per cent of production in September.
” They’ve got access to most of the drug supply, so there’s nothing for Europe,’ Dr Andrew Hill of Liverpool University told The Guardian.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also spoken about the dangers of the US outbidding other Western countries on COVID-19 treatments.The wholesale cornering of remdesivir has also raised fears about what will happen when a vaccine is finally developed.
Remdesivir is an intravenous antiviral medication studied to treat Ebola but now used on hospitalised COVID-19 patients. While not a blockbuster drug, a study shows it can reduce a hospital stay by up to four days. The US has recorded about 2.68 million COVID-19 cases, with more than 129,000 deaths.