NSTnation: “Literally every single person on earth is susceptible to this pandemic - now is not the time for price gouging and pandemic profiteering.' coronavirus covid19 remdesivir
KUALA LUMPUR: As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to surge, medical experts are on the hunt for existing drugs that could be repurposed to fight the infection.
A recent study revealed that repurposed drugs (existing drugs being investigated for new medical indications) to treat Covid-19 could be manufactured at very low prices, between US$0.30 (RM1.29) and US$31 (RM133.61) per treatment course (10–28 days).However, they are currently being sold at far higher prices than the costs of production, particularly in the United States (US).
The study published in the Journal of Virus Eradication 2020, titled"Minimum costs to manufacture new treatments for Covid-19", analyses the cost of production of several promising drugs - remdesivir, favipiravir, hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, azithromycin, lopinavir/ritonavir, sofosbuvir/daclatasvir, and pirfenidone - currently in clinical trials globally with results expected to be known from May onwards.
The minimum estimated costs of production, it said, was US$0.93/day for remdesivir, US$1.45/day for favipiravir, US$0.08/ day for hydroxychloroquine, US$0.02/day for chloroquine, US$0.10/day for azithromycin, US$0.28/day for lopinavir/ritonavir, US$0.39/day for sofosbuvir/daclatasvir and US$1.09/day for pirfenidone.
“Should repurposed drugs demonstrate efficacy against Covid-19, they could be manufactured profitably at very low costs, for much less than current prices.“Estimations for the minimum production costs can strengthen price negotiations and help ensure affordable access to vital treatment for Covid-19 at low prices globally,” the journal reported.
Low and middle income countries, it said, would need access to these treatments at minimum prices to ensure all those in need can be treated.Even in high income countries, the burden of disease could be so great that access to drugs at minimum costs could also be necessary, it said in the study conducted by Liverpool University’s Dr Andrew Hill and his colleagues.
The minimum costs of drug production can be estimated by calculating the cost of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), which is combined with costs of excipients, formulation, packaging and a profit margin, to estimate the price of"final finished product" (FFP).
The paper, however, noted that the costs of treatment may be higher if combinations of two or three drugs are required.Most of the drugs used for Covid-19 trials are repurposed drugs and off-patent, yet several of them are currently priced far higher than this study shows their price could be.
For example, lopinavir/ritonavir retails for US$503 per course (14 days) in the US. This study estimated its cost price at US$4 per course (US$0.28 per day) instead. Pirfenidone is being sold for US$9,606 per course (28 days), but the paper estimated its cost to be US$31.
For repurposed drugs sold in Malaysia (14-day treatment course), the study estimated the cost of Hydroxychloroquine to be US$7 (RM30.17), Chloroquine at US$2 (RM8.62), and Azithromycin at US$11 (RM47.41).Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) welcomed the pricing study highlighting that potential medicines for the treatment of Covid-19 could be made available to all at affordable prices during this pandemic.
Jessica Burry, a pharmacist with MSF Access Campaign said this pricing study shows clearly that potential medicines to treat Covid-19 are not at all expensive to produce and could be priced such that anyone who needs treatment should be able to access it.
Several of the treatments on trial for Covid-19 are priced much higher than these estimates show they should be, she said.“Literally every single person on earth is susceptible to this pandemic - now is not the time for price gouging and pandemic profiteering.
“Patents and monopolies will only result in limited supply and unnecessarily high prices. Rationing drugs because of high prices and limited supply will only serve to prolong the pandemic. What good is a lifesaving drug if you can’t afford it?” Read more: New Straits Times »
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