Five firms in Pakistan, India allowed to make and sell remdesivir

Updated May 15 2020

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Remdesivir is the only drug approved to treat Covid-19 patients after promising early trial results. — AFP/File
Remdesivir is the only drug approved to treat Covid-19 patients after promising early trial results. — AFP/File

NEW DELHI: To expand the drug’s access, Gilead Sciences said this week it had signed non-exclusive licensing pacts with five generic drug-makers based in India and Pakistan, allowing them to make and sell remdesivir for 127 countries.

But health access groups claim the pacts mean cheaper forms of the drug may not become available in nations seen as non-profitable to the five drug-makers.

Remdesivir is the only drug approved to treat Covid-19 patients after promising early trial results prompted US regulators to grant emergency use authorisation on May 2.

Two health advocacy groups, meanwhile, have written to the Indian government asking it to rescind patents given to Gilead for remdesivir so it can be distributed more fairly to coronavirus patients around the world.

Drug patents in India are an important issue as many countries depend on generic drug-makers to make and sell cheaper versions of critical drugs to them. Gilead’s three patents in India for remdesivir stem from 2009 when the drug was in development to treat Ebola.

“The licences divide the global market into two and profitable markets are retained with Gilead and less profitable markets are given to the five generic companies,” said K. Gopakumar, senior legal researcher at Third World Network, which sent a letter to the Indian government on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2020