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U.S. group raises pricing recommendation for Gilead's remdesivir in COVID-19

(Reuters) - Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral remdesivir could be priced up to $5,080 per course based on benefits shown in COVID-19 patients, a U.S. drug pricing research group suggested on Wednesday, above its prior recommendation of around $4,500.

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) said its recommendation change stemmed from recent clinical data, updated cost estimates, public comments and interactions with Gilead.

However, Boston-based ICER suggested a lower price range of around $2,520 to $2,800, if steroid dexamethasone were to be cleared for use in COVID-19. The cheap and widely used steroid was found to reduce death rates in severely ill patients in a study earlier this month.

What Gilead could charge for remdesivir in the United States after its pledged donations are used up has been a topic of intense debate, with experts suggesting that Gilead would need to avoid the appearance of taking advantage of a health crisis for profits.

Remdesivir reduced hospital stays by 31%, compared to a placebo, in a clinical trial released in late April.

Gilead said it was reviewing the full report by ICER to understand what factors were considered.

“Post-donation, we are committed to making remdesivir both accessible and affordable to governments and patients around the world,” a Gilead spokesman said in an email.

Wall Street analysts say the drug could generate billions of dollars in revenue over the next couple of years, assuming the pandemic continues.

Earlier this week, Gilead said it expects to be able to supply enough remdesivir by year-end to treat more than 2 million COVID-19 patients.

The drugmaker has signed licensing agreements with a bevy of Indian drugmakers including Cipla Ltd and Hetero Labs Ltd.

Cipla’s version is priced at less than 5,000 Indian rupees ($66.09), while Hetero Lab’s version is priced at 5,400 rupees.

(Story corrects last paragraph to say Cipla’s version of remdesivir is priced at less than 5,000 Indian rupees, not at 5,000 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Maju Samuel