Dec 30, 2020

Part III: Angling to Price-Gouge American Public on COVID-19 Treatments Taxpayers Paid to Develop

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 58 million Americans struggled to afford their prescription drugs. Now, the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis continues to leave millions of American workers, families and seniors struggling just to stay afloat. Meanwhile, prescription drug prices continue to rise, due to continued bad behavior from Big Pharma – making it harder and harder for American patients to afford their medications at the most challenging of moments.

Unfortunately, Big Pharma’s track record for 2020 leaves little reason to believe that the industry won’t engage in their annual tradition of ringing in the New Year with a flurry of price hikes and clearly demonstrates why lawmakers must act to hold brand name drug manufacturers accountable.

Yesterday, we explored how Big Pharma is continuing to game the system to undermine competition and keep drug prices high. Today, we’re taking a look at how Big Pharma has angled to price-gouge the American public on COVID-19 treatments & vaccines taxpayers paid to develop.


Big Pharma is already setting high prices on COVID-19 treatments to boost profits by price-gouging off the crisis. Earlier this year Gilead’s bad behavior prompted eleven state treasurers to threaten legal and legislative action if the company did not lower the cost of remdesivir. And data released in Fall 2020 found Gilead is reaping profit margins north of 90 percent on remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 — despite ongoing questions as to the drug’s effectiveness as a treatment for the virus and the fact its development was heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

  • In fact, Gilead announced remdesivir had brought in a staggering $873 million in revenues so far this year for the company. Earlier this year, Gilead set the price of remdesivir at $3,120 for a course of treatment for private insurers and $2,340 for government entities, despite the fact that one course of treatment only costs Gilead $234 to make. That’s around a 90-93 percent profit margin.
  • Gilead’s profiteering off of remdesivir is all the more egregious since taxpayers contributed at least $80 million in research funding to pay for remdesivir’s development. The U.S. government began collaborating on the drug in 2014 after an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, laying the groundwork for developing remdesivir as a possible treatment for the coronavirus.

Previously, Gilead tried to take advantage of the pandemic by rushing to obtain orphan drug designation privileges for remdesivir before cases of COVID-19 surpassed 200,000 in the United States. Orphan drug designations are meant to encourage the development of treatments and cures for rare diseases – which COVID-19 is not. Remdesivir’s orphan drug designation would have allowed Gilead to undermine future competition and further profit of the drug developed through research partially funded by American taxpayers. Fortunately, Gilead caved to mounting criticisms over their attempt to boost profits by undermining competition during a time of crisis and rescinded their orphan designation request for remdesivir.

Gilead Wasn’t The Only Brand Name Drug Company That Engaged in Bad Behavior on Potential COVID-19 Treatments.

In April, Jaguar Health, the manufacturer of brand name drug Mytesi, tripled “the price of its lone FDA-approved drug, right after asking the federal government to expand the use of its drug to coronavirus patients,” Axios reports. At the start of the year, the list price for the drug Mytesi, currently used as an HIV/AIDS treatment, was $668.52. But by April, Jaguar Health raised the price to an eye-popping $2,206.52 – alongside the drug company’s efforts to pursue a use for the product as a COVID-19 treatment.

Any COVID-19 treatments and vaccines that ultimately come to market must be priced responsibly so they are accessible and affordable for all Americans. As COVID-19 vaccines and additional treatments become available to the public, policymakers must be prepared to hold Big Pharma accountable if companies try to price-gouge these products — particularly those developed with taxpayer-funded research.

Stay tuned this week as we continue to expose Big Pharma’s Year of Bad Behavior.

CLICK HERE to read: “Dose Of Reality” Big Pharma’s Year of Bad Behavior Part I: Sticking with Price-Hiking “Business as Usual” During Pandemic.

CLICK HERE to read: “Dose Of Reality” Big Pharma’s Year of Bad Behavior Part II: Gaming the System to Undermine Competition at the Expense of American Patients.