Thailand’s opposition against Gilead’s patent application: overcharging what?

Earlier this month, Thai civil society opposed Gilead’s Sciences’ patent application on remdesivir, which has been trialled in the treatment of COVID-19.

Back in November 2020, after underwhelming trials results, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a conditional recommendation against the use of remdesivir in hospitalized patients, regardless of disease severity, as there is currently no evidence that remdesivir improves survival and other outcomes in these patients.

Such a disappointing outcome has not prevented Gilead from overpricing the drug. A five-day course treatment is charged $2,340 USD, while generic producers could do the same for $229 or less. Remdesivir is forecasted to gain market growth in the period of 2021 to 2028. Data Bridge Market Research analyses the market to account to USD 9,925.61 million by 2028.

Civil society experts have assessed Gilead’s application and found that it does not meet patentability standards and requirements.

“It is just Gilead testing the patents boundaries once again”, says Chalermsak Kittitrakul, Project Manager of AIDS Access Foundation, a Make Medicines Affordable partner.

“We are in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic and even after results pointing to low efficacy of the drug on COVID-19 treatment, Gilead is attempting to take advantage of the patenting system. With a lack of evidence of the drug’s efficacy, it calls to question the reasons behind high prices. Remdesivir has been trialed in the treatment of Hepatitis C, Ebola and COVID-19, so perhaps the corporation is trying to protect further profits. Regardless of remdesivir’s use, the principle remains the same – the patent application does not meet patentability requirements and a monopoly must not granted,” concludes Kittitrakul.

The action in Thailand adds to a growing list of countries – Argentina, India, Guatemala, Russia – all opposing Gilead’s attempt to monopolise this drug.