In a significant development, Gilead Sciences Inc said, it expects to be able to produce twice the quantity of its coronavirus fighting drug remdesivir to COVID-19 patients by the end of this year. It expects to serve to at least 2 million COVID-19 patients by this time frame.
Gilead hopes to start trials of an inhaled version of the medicine which currently is administered intravenously.
Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir is at the forefront in the fight against the Chinese virus. In clinical trials it has helped shorten hospital recovery times and has been granted emergency use authorization in the United States and full approval in Japan.
Producing the supplying billions of doses are major hurdle given the ease with which the virus has been designed to spread. So far the virus has infected more than 9 million people globally and is threatening to overwhelm healthcare systems of governments across the globe.
“We will continue to collaborate globally to ensure sufficient worldwide supply,” said Gilead Chief Executive Officer Daniel O’Day in a statement.
To mitigate this hurdle, Gilead has approved the manufacturing of the drug by Indian drugmakers Hetero Labs and Cipla Ltd and has set up voluntary licensing agreements with nine generic manufacturers as well.
Remdesivir is yet to be priced yet in the United States.
According to Michael Yee, an analyst from Jefferies, Gilead’s expectations of two million treatment courses suggests sales of between $2 billion and $3 billion between 2020 and 2021 at a price of $1,000 to $2,000 per course.
The company’s inhaled formulation is likely to bring down the cost since it can be administered through a nebulizer, which can be done outside of hospitals.
Gilead has announced plans for a “next wave” of remdesivir studies, which will include pregnant women and in outpatient settings such as infusion centers and nursing homes.