The experimental COVID-19 drugs remdesivir and Regeneron are facing a surging demand worldwide after being named as part of the cocktail that powered President Donald Trump’s miraculous three-day recovery from the virus.
Regeneron is an experimental drug that is only available in trials, which have been flooded with requests over the last week. Its creator, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, applied to the FDA for an emergency authorization on Wednesday, shortly after Trump hyped it up as a “cure.”
The President also said that there were hundreds of thousands of doses available, though there are only 50,000 at this time. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has said that it hopes to have 300,000 ready for usage in the next few months, should it get approval from the FDA.
The CEO of Gilead, the company behind remdesivir, is more bullish on his drug’s availability. On Friday, he assured viewers that there won’t be a shortage of supply, even though it won’t be free like the President touted on TV.
Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said the company will have a sufficient global supply of remdesivir by the end of October even in the event of surging COVID-19 cases. Yesterday, Gilead published final peer-reviewed data of remdesivir’s large-scale trial showing that the antiviral drug had helped hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover five days faster on average (and seven days faster for severely ill patients).
“I’m really pleased to say that we have ample supply,” O’Day told CNBC on Friday morning.
Still, European countries are scrambling for the drug after the United States had secured much of the global supply. As cases surge in Europe and continue to climb in the United States—they were up in 39 states this week—a shortage seems more likely.
On Tuesday, hospitals in the Netherlands said they were unable to order remdesivir from Gilead. In the U.K., the National Health Service issued a warning to hospitals about increasing demand for the drug, advising doctors to be more selective about whom to give the drug to.
In an open letter in summer, O’Day said Gilead will have more than two million remdesivir treatment courses ready by the end of the year with plans to manufacture several million courses in 2021.
Remdesivir is not yet a home-run COVID-19 drug, per the FDA’s standard. But it has shown strong effects, especially in early-stage patients. “This is a medicine that works by reducing the viral replication in the body, which is important earlier in the disease,” explained O’Day. “The earlier you treat, the better in the hospital and you can prevent people from ever even going onto those stages of the disease where the risk of dying is very high.”
Remdesivir received the FDA’s emergency use approval in May as a treatment for severely ill COVID patients and cleared authorization to be used on all hospitalized patients in August. So far, about 50 countries have approved the drug, according to Gilead.