Multiple biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies have joined in the fight against COVID-19. But one, Gilead Sciences, has been at the forefront of both progress and controversy. The company developed remdesivir, an experimental antiviral with some evidence of COVID-19 improvement. But they faced backlash after receiving Orphan Drug Designation, even asking the FDA to take away the status.
However, the company has been working to assist with the global pandemic by providing remdesivir to medical practices and to the government. According to StatNews, Gilead Sciences even pledged to increase their donations from 607,000 doses to 940,000.
For over 30 years, Gilead Sciences worked to improve the treatment for rare and life-threatening conditions. According to the company’s website, their mission is:
To discover, develop, and commercialize innovative therapeutics in the areas of unmet medical needs.
They follow the core values of inclusion, teamwork, accountability, excellence, and integrity. Additional drugs in their pipeline are being tested as treatments for:
- Hepatitis B
- Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Inflammatory diseases
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis
- Pulmonary fibrosis
Remdesivir and COVID-19
Patients with COVID-19 receive either 6 or 11 doses of remdesivir. As a result, the extra donations will help treat anywhere between 30,000 and 55,000 new patients. Currently, the medical field is experiencing resource scarcity based on the heightened number of sick individuals. This caused concerns that ventilation would be the only treatment for patients but would not be enough to combat the virus.
However, the extra remdesivir means that patients do not need to worry about treatment accessibility. It also alleviates stress on doctors.
Remdesivir was initially poorly rationed by the government. Some hospitals received boxes of remdesivir; some hospitals received nothing. Says Ann Compton-Phillips of Providence Health & Services:
“If [the federal government does] this without any warning and without any plan and without any transparency, it makes us not trust that the system is fair and equitable.”
Following this instability, the government created a new plan for remdesivir distribution. This includes state health departments receiving shipments of remdesivir, then using data to properly allocate resources.
Yet one question remains: how is the government choosing the amount of remdesivir sent to each state?
Potentially, this is based on:
- The number of confirmed patients with COVID-19,
- The number of suspected patients with COVID-19, and
- How many patients (confirmed or suspected) required ventilation or other intensive care.
Hospitals, the state department, and the CDC provide this data. However, the Department of Health and Human Services states that no other data is needed at this time. This presents an issue, as the levels of patients can change and increase. Especially as the United States reopens, surges in COVID-19 may become common.
Despite Gilead working to increase levels of donation, the federal government needs to provide more clarity on how these donations will be used. This means allocation amount, shipment timing, how and why certain calculations are made, and what insights they are gaining from the remdesivir clinical trial.
This clarity would improve resource use and optimize life-saving measures. Unfortunately, without more of a plan from the government, doctors don’t know whether to use remdesivir – because they don’t know if more is coming later.