Published July 26, 2020
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Anyone who has been anticipating the development of drugs to treat COVID-19 has likely shared the same question: What’s it going to cost?
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While there remains no FDA-approved vaccine for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the COVID-19 treatment drug that is furthest along in its clinical trials is remdesivir.
While the FDA has not yet fully approved remdesivir for COVID-19 treatment, the administration did grant an emergency use authorization for it to become more accessible for clinical trials in hopes of accelerating its path to the market.
Hospitals will pay $390 per vial of remdesivir, which equates to $2,340 for a five-day course of the drug, using 6 vials. These treatment costs apply to purchases made for patients covered by Medicare, military or other government health insurance.
The costs are expected to be higher — closer to $3,120 for a five-day course of remdesivir at $520 per vial — when used to treat patients who have with private health insurance.1
For Medicare patients, this will be one of the limited instances when prescription drugs are covered by Medicare Part A. Remdesivir will be covered under Part A when administered as part of inpatient hospital care, and the cost will count toward the beneficiary’s Part A deductible.
Remdesivir could be included in Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan coverage in the very near future if the drug meets FDA approval and other criteria for coverage.
The early results from remdesivir’s clinical tests have been mostly promising.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 1,063 hospitalized patients, those who received remdesivir for treatment recovered faster and were released earlier than those who took a placebo (median recovery times of 11 days vs. 15 days respectively).
In addition, the death rate of those who took remdesivir was just 7%, compared to the 12% fatality rate of those who received a placebo.2
The results of this and other clinical studies prompted the FDA to issue an emergency use authorization (EUA) for remdesivir on May 1, 2020. This authorization, while still technically not full FDA approval for widespread use of the drug, makes it easier for doctors to access remdesivir for hospitalized patients experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19.
Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that is administered through an IV. The drug was developed by Gilead Sciences, which was donated at no cost to treat severely ill patients through the end of June.
1 Gilead Sciences, Inc. (June 29, 2020). An Open Letter from Daniel O’Day, Chairman & CEO, Gilead Sciences [press release]. Retrieved from https://www.gilead.com/news-and-press/press-room/press-releases/2020/6/an-open-letter-from-daniel-oday-chairman--ceo-gilead-sciences.
2 Biegel, J, et al. (May 22, 2020). Remdesivir for the Treatment of Covid-19 — Preliminary Report. NEJM. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2007764.
Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for MedicareAdvantage.com. He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.
His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.
Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.
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