Medical bills could be thousands of dollars treating COVID-19 patients

Cost of COVID-19 treatment

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The only drug approved by the FDA to treat COVID-19 could cost patients thousands of dollars.

Gilead Sciences, the company that manufactures the antiviral drug Remdesivir, announced in an open letter Monday that they would be selling Remdesivir to hospitals and the government in July.

A typical 5-day treatment course would include six vials at $390 per vial, which equals $2,340 per patient. The cost goes up for private insurance companies to $520 dollars per vial, which would total to $3,120 per patient.

The discounted government price will not include Medicare or Medicaid.

"With government programs in place, along with additional Gilead assistance as needed, we believe all patients will have access," Gilead Sciences CEO O'Day wrote in the letter.

“As with all our actions on Remdesivir, we approached this with the aim of helping as many patients as possible, as quickly as possible and in the most responsible way. This has been our compass point throughout, from collaborating to find rapid answers on safety and efficacy, to scaling up manufacturing and donating our supply of Remdesivir through the end of June.”

Since May, the company has been donating the drug to the government which would distribute it to state health departments, who dispersed the medicine to hospitals.

State health officer Dr. Karen Landers said the state had about 7,000 vials in stock, which would treat 700 or so patients. Landers said once the medicine ran out hospitals would begin purchasing their own supply.

Landers said the overall cost of treating the sickest of COVID-19 patients can get expensive.

“Do they have to be hospitalized in an ICU? Do they have to be ventilated? Looking at all the additional costs that are needed and other treatments outside of the drug, really the cost, It’s not going to be about the drug, it’s going to be about the other related cost of being in the hospital,” Landers explained.

“This is just another reason to slow the spread of this virus as the medical bills can rack up,” said Landers.

UAB who helped develop Remdisiver sent WBRC a statement: “UAB leads an NIH-funded research consortium called the Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center which coordinated the early research into remdesivir. Gilead owns the rights to the drugs. UAB is not involved financially.”

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