Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem joins call for cheaper COVID-19 drug

Caduceus(Associated Press)
Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 4:04 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A bipartisan group of attorneys general from 34 states and territories are calling for the federal government to increase the supply and decrease the price of the COVID-19 drug remdesivir – and one of those states is North Dakota.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was one of the attorneys general who wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services saying remdesivir supplies are “dangerously limited,” and the price will “impede access to treatment” and strain state budgets.

Biopharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, created the drug using taxpayer money, and the attorneys general say it’s showing promise in reducing the risk of death and the length of hospital stays for people with COVID-19. The company announced at the end of June that a five-day treatment – or six vials of remdesivir – will cost $2,340 per patient using government healthcare programs. The price for U.S. private insurance companies for the same treatment would be $3,120 per patient. Gilead also plans to make two million treatment courses available by the end of the year, which the attorneys general say is not enough, based on the nearly five million cases in the U.S. to date.

The letter calls for HHS, the Food and Drug Administration, and Nation Institutes of Health to license Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug to other manufacturers to ensure there’s enough supply and to create competition that will drive the price down.

If the agencies refuse the request, the group wants “march-in” rights to be assigned to states. That means, under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, the government could require a patent holder to grant a license to a responsible applicant.

USA Today reports that the letter is signed by attorneys general of 31 states: California, Louisiana, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Attorneys general for the District of Columbia, American Samoa and Guam also signed. 

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