Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Big Pharma is Profiteering from the Pandemic

Gilead Sciences has a Covid-19 drug called remdesiriv. It will charge up to $3,120 for a five-day course. We must fight against pandemic profiteering. 

Otto Fors

August 17, 2020
Facebook Twitter Share

Last week, Gilead Sciences applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval for remdesivir, its Covid-19 treatment. The antiviral drug has already been approved in the European Union and Japan, and for emergency use in the U.S. Gilead plans to charge up to $3,120 for a five-day treatment, and has avoided pursuing an existing cheaper alternative. Their drive to maximize profits during a pandemic exposes the depravity of pharmaceutical research under capitalism.

Remdesivir, also known by its brand name Veklury, is an antiviral medication originally developed to treat Hepatitis C and Ebola. Clinical trials on hospitalized Covid-19 patients showed that the drug could cut down recovery time from 15 to 11 days, and may also increase survival rates. In May, remdesivir was authorized for emergency use, and Gilead subsequently signed licensing deals with 127 countries to produce the drug. The company aims to produce 2 million courses of the treatment by the end of the year.

While many were excited at the prospect of a coronavirus treatment, Gilead has announced a hefty price tag: $520 per dose for private insurers and $390 per dose for the U.S. government. This brings the total cost to $3,120 for a five-day treatment (or $2,340 for individuals on government plans like Medicare). With remdesivir, Gilead is “sitting on a gold mine,” and the company predicts that the drug will significantly raise revenues and offset the impact of the pandemic on its other products. Indeed, the company’s stock price has already increased with the prospect of remdesivir profits. Meanwhile, Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day earned $31 million in his first year on the job, while the company made a profit of $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2020.

You might also be interested in: No Rainbow Capitalism: The Five Worst Corporations to Kick Out of Pride (including Gilead Sciences!)

In response to the eye-watering cost of the drug, a bipartisan group of 34 state attorneys general sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, writing, “It is unfortunate that Gilead has chosen to place its profit margins over the interests of Americans suffering in this pandemic… Gilead should not profit from the pandemic.” Research has shown that one daily dose costs between $1 and $12 to produce, and could cost as little as 93 cents. Critics have also argued that the high price tag is unfair given that Gilead received at least $70 million in federal subsidies to develop remdesivir. Patients and the government are essentially paying twice for this medication.

Gilead has also avoided researching whether another of its antiviral drugs — GS-441524 — could also be effective against coronavirus. The drug is cheaper, easier to produce, very similar to remdesivir, and may actually be more effective. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, sent a letter to federal regulators and the CEO of Gilead to encourage clinical trials of the drug. The group points out that Gilead has a financial incentive to promote remdesivir: It was patented five years after GS-441524, meaning that the company has exclusive rights to manufacture it for longer. Gilead has said that it will run pre-clinical trials on GS-441524, but have not yet provided details.

Gilead Sciences is no stranger to pricing controversy. In 2014, the company released a hepatitis C drug called Harvoni, charging $94,000 per 12-week course, or over $1,000 per pill. In 2016, another hepatitis C drug was priced at $74,760. Though it has since reduced the prices of both medications, they are some of the best-selling drugs in history, and helped the company reach a market valuation of nearly $100 billion. More recently, Gilead faced criticism for the steep price it charges for Truvada, also known as PrEP. At nearly $2,000 per month, the HIV medication costs over 350 times more than generic versions available in other countries. The company even faced criticism at the start of the coronavirus pandemic: remdesivir received “orphan drug status,” a highly profitable classification for drugs which treat rare diseases. After public outcry, Gilead asked the FDA to revoke the status.

You might be interested in: Nationalize All Healthcare Now!

Charging up to $3,120 for a course of a medication which costs $10 to manufacture — after the research was federally subsidized — is outrageous. Gilead’s business decisions demonstrate the depravity of privatized healthcare and pharmaceutical research. Under capitalism, these companies are incentivized to price gouge. They should be placed under the democratic control of workers, scientists, and doctors, free of the profit motive that encourages them to put profits and shareholder value over people.

Facebook Twitter Share

Otto Fors

Otto is a college professor in the New York area.

United States

Liberal Towns in New Jersey Are Increasing Attacks on Pro-Palestine Activists

A group of neighbors in South Orange and Maplewood have become a reference point for pro-Palestine organizing in New Jersey suburbs. Now these liberal towns are upping repression against the local activists.

Samuel Karlin

April 12, 2024

“We Shouldn’t Let this Stop Us”: Suspended Columbia Student Activist Speaks Out

Aidan Parisi, a student at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, was recently suspended and has been threatened with eviction from their graduate student housing for pro-Palestinian activism on campus. Aidan talked to Left Voice about the state of repression, the movement at Columbia, and the path forward for uniting the student movement with the labor movement and other movements against oppression.

Left Voice

April 11, 2024

The Movement for Palestine Needs Independent, Working-Class Politics

As the brutal genocide of Palestinians continues with the help of the Biden administration, there is maneuver underway to co-opt the movement for Palestine. We need to have a democratic and independent movement that relies on the power of the working class, the student movement, and mobilizations in the streets.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

April 7, 2024
A hand holds a phone which displays the TikTok Logo

We Don’t Want TikTok Under Control of U.S. Capitalists — Put It Under the Control of its Workers and Users

The U.S. government wants to force the sale of the incredibly popular Chinese social media app. A TikTok owned by U.S. capitalists will only make things worse. We want TikTok under workers' control!

Nathaniel Flakin

April 6, 2024


Thousands of Police Deployed to Shut Down Congress on Palestine in Berlin

This weekend, a Palestine Congress was supposed to take place in the German capital. But 2,500 police were mobilized and shut down the event before the first speech could be held. Multiple Jewish comrades were arrested.

Nathaniel Flakin

April 12, 2024

Fired by a German University for Solidarity with Palestine — Interview with Nancy Fraser

The University of Cologne canceled a guest professorship with the philosophy professor from The New School. In this interview, she speaks about Germany dividing between "Good Jews" and "Bad Jews," her politicization in the civil rights movement, and her time in an Israeli kibbutz.

Nathaniel Flakin

April 10, 2024

Pro-Palestine Activists in France Get Summons from Anti-Terrorist Police

As part of a repressive campaign against the movement for Palestine in France activists have gotten summons from “anti-terrorist” police. The movement for Palestine in the United States must oppose all repression of our movement here and in Europe.

Samuel Karlin

April 9, 2024

‘You Have to Change Things from the Root’: Interview With a Young Immigrant

Left Voice interviewed a 23-year-old immigrant, factory worker, and student, who told us about his experience crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S. and about the life of Latin American youth in the United States.

Left Voice

April 5, 2024