A person enters a building at Gilead headquarters in Foster City, California (representational image) | Photographer: David Paul Morris | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: US-based Gilead Sciences — the maker of the most sought-after drug remdesivir for Covid-19 treatment — is planning to build a global consortium of pharmaceutical companies to expand the production of the medicine.

The experimental drug that failed to cure Ebola is now being touted as the best shot against Covid-19. The latest data on the drug showed that it reduced the time of recovery of Covid-19 patients.

“Remdesivir is a result of a decade of Gilead research. The newly released trial results open up many opportunities to explore the utility and potential of remdesivir,” Gilead Sciences’ spokesperson told ThePrint in an emailed response.

“On the supply side, we are working to build a global consortium of pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturers in North America, Europe and Asia to expand global capacity and production,” the spokesperson said, adding that the company has pledged to donate all its existing stock for patients suffering from Covid-19 infection.

“It will be essential for countries to work together to create enough supply for people all over the world and we look forward to these collaborative efforts.”

The company, the spokesperson added, is in discussion with various groups about how they might bring remdesivir to the developing world.

“The latest data allows a shorter treatment time, which allows more patients to get access to the potential treatment.”

The spokesperson added, “Our teams will look at ways to potentially bring the treatment to a broader patient population by investigating other formulations and means of delivery.”

Also read: Remdesivir maker Gilead is caught between making a profit and treating the world

Proposals from Indian companies

Key Indian pharma companies, including Cipla, Glenmark and Dr Reddy’s, are in different stages of the development of the drug, which is under patent protection until 2035.

Industry experts believe Gilead Sciences may announce provisions along the lines it issued in 2014, allowing Indian drug makers to produce Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, which was then patented and phenomenally expensive.

However, Gilead hasn’t yet clearly stated its future plans on joining hands with the Indian players.

The decision of partnership would depend on how fast the supply of the drug can be ramped up, the company said.

On a question if Gilead is looking for drug companies to partner with for selling remdesivir in India, the spokesperson said: “We are aware of proposals for manufacturers to license their intellectual property under various pooled arrangements.”

“We will carefully consider whether these proposals would benefit the amount of supply or the speed at which it is made available once we understand the details of such proposals.”

Remdesivir has ‘clear-cut’ positive effects 

Last week, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.” 

The patients who were administered the drug, he said, were discharged from the hospital in 11 days, on average, as compared to 15 days for a placebo group, which took dummy or no pills.

“What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” Fauci said, referring to data from a study of more than 1,000 patients across the US and around the world. He said the drug would become part of standard Covid-19 care in the US.

However, claims of Dr Fauci came at the time when another study in medical journal The Lancet suggested the drug had not shown significant clinical benefits in critically-ill Covid-19 patients.

Remdesivir has now been cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in Covid-19 patients — becoming the first medication backed by early clinical data to be made available to fight the novel coronavirus.

Also read: Remdesivir trial shows Covid-19 patients recover faster, could be first effective drug


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