Aug 06, 2020
34 state attorneys general urge Trump to end "outrageous" Gilead monopoly on COVID-19 drug
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Jake Johnson August 6, 2020 10:30AM (UTC)
This article originally appeared at Common Dreams. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.
Warning of "dangerously low and insufficient" supply projections, a bipartisan coalition of nearly three dozen state attorneys general is urging the Trump administration to end pharmaceutical giant Gilead's monopoly control over Covid-19 treatment remdesivir by authorizing generic production of the drug, which was developed with the support of at least $70 million in taxpayer funding.
"Now more than ever, the American public needs the support of the federal government in helping them afford Covid-19-related treatment," the coalition led by California's Democratic AG Xavier Becerra and Louisiana's Republican AG Jeff Landry wrote in a letter (pdf) Tuesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins.:
"This is not the time for any company to extract large corporate profits from uninsured and underinsured Americans—nor can we allow the individual market priorities and weaknesses of one company to determine the fates of hundreds of thousands of people," the letter reads. "Gilead should not profit from the pandemic and it should be pushed to do more to help more people."
The attorneys general are demanding that the Trump administration immediately exercise its authority under the Bayh-Dole Act, a 1980 law giving the federal government the power to license third-party manufacturers to produce a drug if the patent-holder fails to make the treatment available on "reasonable terms."
"At a minimum," the attorneys general wrote, "we ask that you support states by assigning to states the ability to use the march-in rights under this law to achieve the same purposes.":
As Common Dreams reported in June, Gilead is charging U.S. hospitals around $3,120 per privately insured patient for a treatment course of remdesivir—a price tag the attorneys general slammed as "outrageous and unconscionable." Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen estimates that Gilead could have priced remdesivir at $1 per day and still turned a reasonable profit.
"It is unfortunate that Gilead has chosen to place its profit margins over the interests of Americans suffering in this pandemic," the coalition of attorneys general wrote. "Record unemployment and ongoing financial troubles will prevent many Americans from paying for remdesivir. Even for the insured, Gilead's excessive pricing makes copayments and out-of-pocket expenses cost-prohibitive."
Despite the massive infusion of public funding for remdesivir, the attorneys general warned that Gilead remains "unable to guarantee a supply of remdesivir sufficient to alleviate the health and safety needs of the country amid the pandemic.":
"Gilead's production projection remains dangerously low and insufficient to handle the current domestic demands, let alone future demands for the antiviral drug," reads the letter, which was signed by attorneys general from Minnesota, Ohio, Utah, Nebraska, and dozens of other states.
Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines program at Public Citizen, echoed the demand for an end to Gilead's monopoly on remdesivir production in a statement Tuesday.:
"Gilead's monopoly control of remdesivir leads to shortages and rationing and keeps prices high," said Maybarduk. "Taxpayers funded remdesivir's development from the drug's early days. Generic competition would help expand supply and ensure reasonable pricing. The federal government—we the people, that is—appears to co-own remdesivir's core patents. Remdesivir should be in the public domain."
"While remdesivir is no kind of pandemic panacea," Maybarduk added, "hospitals should be able to rely on a robust, affordable supply and make choices according to medical need."
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A Louisville judge ordered the federal courthouse to close as officials are expected to announced a decision in Breonna Taylor investigation
Children play near a mural of Breonna Taylor on September 17, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. Protestors continue to gather to celebrate the life of Breonna Taylor, at Jefferson Square Park, in front of the Louisville Metro Hall. Brandon Bell/Getty Images
- Federal buildings in Louisville, Kentucky are set to close from September 21-25 amid the decision of Breonna Taylor's case, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
- A judge signed the order on Friday in response to a request from the General Services Administration, which sought to close several buildings in the city to prepare for the "possibility of civil backlash," local outlet WDRB reported.
- Among the buildings closing for the week is the city's Gene Snyder US Courthouse and Custom House.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Officials in Louisville, Kentucky, ordered federal buildings to stay closed this week amid the decision from the investigation of the death of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was killed by police during a "no-knock" warrant in March.
The order, signed by Chief Judge Greg Stivers on Friday, will close the Gene Snyder US Courthouse and Custom House between September 21-25, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. The outlet reported that the order came in response to a request from the General Services Administration. A courthouse official told the outlet that the building closing is "in anticipation of an announcement."
Attorney Russell Coleman also requested US Department of Homeland Security officials provide additional protection "for the courthouse and three other adjacent federal buildings," the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is currently leading the investigation into Taylor's case. Cameron is prepping evidence to show a grand jury, NBC News previously reported, and is slated to announce the charges against the Louisville police officers who were involved in Taylor's shooting once a decision is confirmed.
None of the officers involved in the March narcotics raid that resulted in Taylor's death have been charged. Two were placed on administrative leave and one other, Brett Hankinson, was fired from the Louisville Police Department in June for "extreme indifference to the value of human life," Chief of Police Robert Schroeder wrote in the termination letter.
In addition to the courthouse, efforts to protect other federal buildings were in progress over the weekend, WDRB reported. The General Services Administration facility manager, Tom Moore, told the outlet that several buildings are considered "high risk" by the Department of Homeland Security and were closed in anticipation of the "possibility of civil backlash" to an announcement.
Taylor's death came amid ongoing protests against police brutality across the US and sparked demonstrations with supporters marching in Louisville for more than 70 consecutive days.
The city of Louisville gave Breonna Taylor's family a $12 million dollar settlement on Tuesday that included extensive police reforms.