New analysis: Gilead could price remdesivir at $1 and STILL make a profit

Gilead claims $1B in total development costs for remdesivir….less than what they paid out to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks in first quarter of 2020 alone

REMINDER: Gilead sued by government last year for price for price gouging on HIV drug developed with taxpayer funds…charging up to $20,000/year

Washington, DC – Today, Patients Over Pharma responded to a new report from Reuters suggesting that Gilead Sciences is expected by some to charge “$4,000 per patient or higher” for a treatment round of their promising COVID-19 drug Remdesivir. This comes as a new analysis from Public Citizen shows that Gilead could price remdesivir at less than $1 per dose, or $10 for a full treatment, and still earn a profit. 

“Patients across the country shouldn’t have to count on drug companies like Gilead’s good graces to avoid being gouged on COVID-19 drugs that their tax dollars helped develop,” said Eli Zupnick, spokesman for Patients Over Pharma. “Congress needs to push aside the Big Pharma lobbyists and act quickly to make sure that COVID-19 drugs like remdisevir that were developed using taxpayer dollars are affordable and accessible to every American.” 

Last week Gilead held its earnings call and announced that it was “too premature” to discuss pricing of remdesivir and reiterated its obligation to shareholders, which highlighted the need for Congress to take action to ensure that any COVID-19 drug developed using taxpayer dollars is affordable and accessible to every American, a position that recent polling shows has overwhelming support.

Remdesivir developed with taxpayer support 

Remdesivir, Originally Labeled GS-5734, Was Discovered Through A Collaboration Between Gilead, CDC And The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute Of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) On Ebola Treatments.“GS-5734 is a monophosphoramidate prodrug of an adenosine analog that was discovered through a collaboration among Gilead, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Discovered in 2014, the compound already has been shown to wipe out signs of the virus in monkeys.” [American Chemical Society – Chemical & Engineering News, 7/6/16]

October 2015: Gilead Press Release Confirmed GS-5734 Was Identified In Collaboration With CDC And USAMRIID. “GS-5734 was discovered as part of Gilead’s program to screen compounds in its libraries for activity against a range of potential emerging viruses, including Ebola. In collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the company identified GS-5734 in vitro activity against the Ebola virus. In animal studies conducted at USAMRIID, treatment initiated on day 3 post-infection with Ebola virus resulted in 100 percent survival of monkeys.” [Gilead press release, 10/21/15]

March 2016 Study Of Effect Of GS-5734 In Monkeys Was Led By Researchers At USAMRIID. “Travis Warren, Ph.D., a principal investigator at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and first author of the paper, said the work published today is the result of continuing collaborations between USAMRIID and Gilead Sciences of Foster City, Calif. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also contributed by performing initial screening of the Gilead Sciences compound library to find molecules with promising antiviral activity. That initial work identified the precursor to GS-5734, a small-molecule antiviral agent, which led to the effort by Gilead and USAMRIID to further refine, develop and profile the compound. Led by USAMRIID Science Director Sina Bavari, Ph.D., the paper’s senior author, the research team used cell culture and animal models to demonstrate the compound’s antiviral activity against several pathogens, including Ebola virus.” [USAMRIID press release, 3/3/16] 

Initial GS-5734 Studies Were Conducted With Funding From The Department Of Defense And CDC. “These studies were in part supported by The Joint Science and Technology Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JSTO-CBD) of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) under Plan No. CB10218. CDC core funding supported the work done by M.K.L. at CDC.” [Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 1/26/17]

 2016: Department Of Defense Awarded $1.2M To Gilead To Fund A Study On Ebola Treatment. In 2016, the Department of Defense awarded Gilead $1,196,950 for a “blinded randomized controlled study for Ebola.” [, start date 5/12/16]

Background from Gilead’s 4/30 earnings call

Gilead CEO: “We understand our responsibility both to patients and also to shareholders and we’ll be balancing that.” 

Gilead Paid Out $874M In Cash Dividends To Shareholders And Made $1.3B In Stock Buybacks In First Quarter Of 2020. “As of March 31, 2020, Gilead had $24.3 billion of cash, cash equivalents and marketable debt securities, compared to $25.8 billion as of December 31, 2019. During the first quarter 2020, Gilead generated $1.4 billion in operating cash flow, repaid $500 million of debt, paid cash dividends of $874 million and utilized $1.3 billion on stock repurchases.” [Gilead press release, 4/30/20]

Gilead Dodged Question On Thinking Through Potential Revenues Of Remdesivir – Said They Would Provide Additional Guidance On Revenue Estimates On Q2 Call.

Michael Yee — Jefferies — Analyst: Yeah. Hi, Dan. So my question is for you guys on remdesivir as it relates to [Technical Issues] can you just describe the inputs and how to think about what revenue to the positive remdesivir could have this year? What have been the impacts on that inputs into that? On expenses, you guys obviously don’t expense guidance, you kind of walked through that. You described the approach dollars for remdesivir. Maybe just walk through the inputs there and how to think about why would it be on the lower end and comment on that because it makes the model. Yeah, so talk to that [Technical Issues] Thanks.

Daniel O’Day — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer: …So Michael, thank you for the call. On the revenue side, it is just as Andy mentioned also, and I mentioned it’s too premature. There is a lot of moving parts right now. Our focus will be on making sure we come up with a sustainable model that allows us to provide remdesivir to patients around the globe that — is intent on providing access and affordability. We’re just now going through the clinical data, the demand scenarios, the regulatory approvals, all these things are essential for us to inputs into our plan about how that will work post the donation. So we can’t really give more insight into that at this stage, but certainly when we can, we will….

Andrew Dickinson — Chief Financial Officer: … we’ll do everything we can to provide more color and commentary in particular on our Q2 earnings call. [Gilead Q1 2020 earnings call transcript, 4/30/20]

In Response To Questions On Licensing Out IP And Manufacturing Ensuring Global Access To Remdesivir, Gilead Said It Would Follow Similar Model As It Did To Its HIV Drugs:  

Geoff Meacham — Bank of America — Analyst: …And then on remdesivir access, is there a model to license out IP and our manufacturing. I’m just thinking about how to accelerate perhaps broader access outside the US. Thank you.

Andrew Dickinson — Chief Financial Officer: …Look, on the manufacturing side, I’d say a couple of things at a high level. Is it again, our primary focus is on providing access to patients around the world. So just like we did with our HIV medicines and HCV medicines, we are deeply focused on this. We are — we have two separate work streams, one is working on our internal supply chain and making sure that we have a robust supply of starting materials intermediates and a strong manufacturing consortium with companies around the world. You’ve seen some of the references to that and Dan’s CEO letters and I would expect that will provide some additional information over the coming weeks and months. [Gilead Q1 2020 earnings call transcript, 4/30/20]


back to top