The SA Competition Commission is investigating the price of US pharmaceutical manufacturer Gilead Sciences’ coronavirus treatment remdesivir, and prices charged by generic firms to which it granted manufacturing licences.
Commission spokesperson Makunga Siyabulela is quoted in Business Day as saying that the organisation received a request from the Health Justice Initiative (HJI) and Wits University research unit Ezintsha to examine the price of remdesivir.
The report says Gilead is under fire in the US for its pricing of remdesivir at just over $3,000 (nearly R52,000) for a five-day course for patients with private insurance.
Estimates of what the price should be vary widely. Analysis by University of Liverpool researcher Andrew Hill published in the Journal of Virus Eradication concluded it should be less than $6 for a five-day course if only production cost was considered. The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review’s cost-recovery approach put the price tag at $1,000.
HJI head Fatima Hassan said in the report that the commission should step in as South Africa’s medicine-pricing regulations for the private sector had limited scope. The regulations to the Medicines and Related Substances Act control mark-ups charged by players in the medicine supply chain, and annual price increases, but not launch prices or benchmark prices against other countries.
By the end of last week the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority had issued section 21 authorisation to seven generic manufacturers awarded licences to produce remdesivir by Gilead.
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