Senator Stabenow and House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Maloney Seek GAO’s Review of Gilead’s Taxpayer-Funded COVID-19 Treatment

Jul 28, 2020
Press Release
Lawmakers Lead Efforts to Ensure Coronavirus Treatment is Affordable for All People in the United States

WASHINGTON, D.C.  U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the discovery and development remdesivir – the first drug authorized to treat COVID-19.  Gilead, the company that owns the drug, collected more than $22.4 billion in total revenue and generated more than $5.3 billion in profit last year.

 

Gilead announced it will charge government programs $390 per vial, or $2,340 per five-day treatment of the drug. Because of the high price, the lawmakers asked GAO to also examine what legal rights federal agencies have related to their contributions to the discovery and development of remdesivir.

 

“Analysts have projected that at this price point, Gilead will generate nearly $2 billion in profits from remdesivir by the end of this year, while public health experts have warned that remdesivir’s price may strain Medicare and hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. Remdesivir was developed with an estimated $70 million in federal funding, and Gilead relied on key scientific contributions from government scientists. Despite investing significant resources in the development of remdesivir, the federal government is now expected to spend billions of dollars purchasing the drug,” the lawmakers wrote.

 

Text of the letter is copied below and available here.

 

Dear Mr. Dodaro:

 

We request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a review of the federal government’s investment into the research and development of the antiviral medication remdesivir. 

 

Remdesivir has shown some promise as a treatment for COVID-19, although the safety and efficacy of the treatment continues to be evaluated.  On June 29, 2020, Gilead Sciences, the company that sells remdesivir, announced that it will charge government programs $390 per vial, or $2,340 per five-day treatment of the drug. Gilead has acknowledged that it will charge more in the United States for commercially-insured patients—$520 per vial, or $3,120 for a course of treatment.  

 

Remdesivir’s exorbitant price, which comes as the United States continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, is difficult to understand because Gilead collected more than $22.4 billion in total revenues and generated more than $5.3 billion in profit last year alone. Analysts have projected that at this price point, Gilead will generate nearly $2 billion in profits from remdesivir by the end of this year, while public health experts have warned that remdesivir’s price may strain Medicare and hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

 

Remdesivir was developed with an estimated $70 million in federal funding, and Gilead relied on key scientific contributions from government scientists. Despite investing significant resources in the development of remdesivir, the federal government is now expected to spend billions of dollars purchasing the drug.  In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services has already contracted with Gilead to purchase nearly the company’s entire supply of remdesivir through September.

 

To ensure that Congress has a better understanding of these issues and possible actions that the federal government can take to address them, we request that the Comptroller General initiate a review that evaluates the following questions:

 

1.               What financial, scientific, or technical contributions that federal agencies have made to the discovery and development of remdesivir?

2.               What legal rights do federal agencies have related to their contributions to the discovery and development of remdesivir?

 

Please include recommendations for agency or congressional action in your evaluation. If you have any questions about this request, please contact Senator Stabenow’s staff at (202) 224-4822 or Oversight and Reform Committee staff at (202) 225-5051.

 

Sincerely,

116th Congress