US-based biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences said on Wednesday that it is negotiating long-term voluntary licences with several generic drugmakers in India and Pakistan to produce experimental antiviral drug remdesivir. Remdesivir is currently under spotlight for its potential to treat patients suffering from Covid-19. The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) last week issued an emergency use authorisation for remdesivir in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
Gilead said that it is in discussions with some of the world's leading chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies about their ability, under voluntary licences, to produce remdesivir for Europe, Asia and the developing world through at least 2022. Which companies Gilead is currently in discussion with were not revealed.
The announcement comes after Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Monday said that there is a confusion over the pricing and patent of experimental anti-viral drug remdesivir.
The Health Ministry had recently said that it is examining remdesivir, which was used during the Ebola outbreak, as one protocol in the treatment for Covid-19.
Gilead said it will provide appropriate technology transfers to facilitate remdesivir production, adding that it is in active discussions with the Medicines Patent Pool to licence remdesivir for developing countries.
Producing the drug requires scarce raw materials, with their own lengthy production time, and specialised manufacturing capabilities with limited global capacity, the drug maker pointed out.
Any disruption to the supply chain impacting these scarce raw materials and other manufacturing inputs could reduce the amount of remdesivir produced and increase the time it takes to do so.
Remdesivir is being studied in multiple ongoing international clinical trials, and the safety and efficacy of remdesivir for the treatment of Covid-19 are not yet established.