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Fighting Remdesivir Unaffordability & Inaccessibility: Doggett, SA Physician, Public Health Leaders Hold Press Conference on COVID Treatment Distribution

September 8, 2020

***For Immediate Release***

Press release header

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 8, 2020

Contact: Kate Stotesbery

202-225-4865

 

Fighting Remdesivir Unaffordability & Inaccessibility: Doggett, SA Physician, Public Health Leaders Hold Press Conference on COVID Treatment Distribution

Washington, D.C. –  U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee and vocal advocate for safe, affordable, COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, joined a national press conference on shortages of COVID-19 treatment remdesivir with Dr. Tom Patterson, Chief of Infectious Diseases at UT Health San Antonio; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital; Zain Rizvi, Law and Policy Researcher at Public Citizen; and Joe Torsella, Pennsylvania Treasurer. This press call was held in coordination with The PrEP4All Collaboration, Public Citizen, and Social Security Works.

Full video of the press conference is available here; Congressman Doggett speaks at roughly minute 34:15 and Texas leader Dr. Patterson speaks at 11:48. At least 38 hospitals in 12 states have reported shortages of remdesivir since July, leaving many patients without access to the drug. The White House has also exacerbated the shortages by bungling distribution of these limited medical supplies, according to a new Public Citizen report. The speakers urged the federal government to use a century-old power – known as government patent use through 28 U.S.C. § 1498 – to increase access to remdesivir and other drugs.

“Remdesivir—too little availability and too much unaffordability,” said Congressman Doggett today. “Initially, the Trump Administration instituted rationing but totally botched distribution, shorting many hospitals most in need and sending some supplies to places with little or no immediate need. But all along, the Administration had existing legal power to do more than ration. It has had the power to both increase supply and restrain monopoly prices. If Trump tweets could expand supply or phony campaign ads could lower prices, we would have a remdesivir surplus. Instead, some whose suffering could be reduced and hospitalization shortened receive no relief because of Trump’s refusal to act.”

“Unfortunately, this failure parallels his failure to use his existing authority under the Defense Production Act to increase supplies of personal protective equipment and essential medical equipment—a failure that unnecessarily exposed so many health care professionals to infection. The DPA and §1498 are complementary, the DPA can mandate certain manufacturing, while 1498 removes patent barriers to that manufacturing.”

Dr. Tom Patterson, Chief of Infectious Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, shared his experience dealing with remdesivir shortages in San Antonio: “Through our surge that really was through mid-August, we had admitted about 1000 patients in our single hospital, University Hospital in San Antonio, and in that setting we received enough remdesivir to treat less than a third of the admitted patients—so a really woefully inadequate supply…we really had to restrict the remdesivir use to those patients that would benefit most.”

Congressman Doggett also explained that “Gilead is overcharging on a drug that was saved from the scrap heap of failed drugs only because of taxpayer-funded research. It’s a familiar story. Big Pharma takes taxpayer dollars, receives monopoly rights, and then charges sky-high prices—whatever the sick and dying will pay. Over $10 billion has been spent on Operation Warp Speed without any meaningful restraint on prices for the resulting medications and vaccines. Taxpayers pay all the costs while all the profits are privatized. Big Pharma has once again been a big winner during this pandemic while Trump secrets his pharmaceutical agreements and Congress continues to stand impotent and fails to demand accountability.”

“We see a pandemic as a crisis demanding everyone work together to save lives, but some see it as an opportunity for exploitation and war profiteering,” continued Congressman Doggett. “Big Pharma is engaged in the latter—promoting itself as the world’s savior while seeking as much taxpayer money as possible. Vague promises around pricing with no specific plans or commitment to share research and open up licenses so we have enough manufacturers to meet huge global supply needs. Trump could end these problems with a stroke of a pen. Instead of tweets, bluster, and empty executive orders that aren’t even implemented, he could transform the market with access and affordability instead of the denial, delay, and ongoing deception, which is his pandemic trademark.”

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