Gilead's remdesivir set to become Europe's first Covid-19 therapy

The drug's European price is not yet known. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - Doctors in Europe will soon be able to treat Covid-19 patients with Gilead's antiviral drug, remdesivir, after the healthcare regulator's endorsement put it on track to become the first therapy for the disease on the continent.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Thursday (June 25) its human medicines committee (CHMP) recommended conditionally approving the drug for adults and adolescents from 12 years of age who are also suffering from pneumonia and require oxygen support.

European Union conditional marketing authorisation allows a treatment to be sold for a year in the 27-nation bloc before all necessary data on its efficacy and side effects are available.

Gilead has until December to submit this data.

The EMA endorsement means physicians can prescribe the Gilead drug in Europe once the European Commission, the EU executive, gives its approval, which is now a formality expected over the coming week.

The drug's European price is not yet known.

In the United States, it can be priced at up to US$5,080 (S$7,000) per course, while Indian generic drug makers will sell the treatment for between 5,000 rupees and 6,000 rupees (S$92 - S$110).

US-based Gilead, whose shares have risen 17 per cent this year on hopes for the treatment, in an e-mailed statement said it has not yet set a price.

Demand for the drug soared after Covid-19 trials showed promise, but supply could be an issue.

Gilead expects it can provide more than two million courses of remdesivir, to be branded Veklury, by year-end, double its previous target.

The drug maker also plans to test an easier-to-use, inhaled version of the drug that is now given intravenously.

Remdesivir is designed to hinder certain viruses, including the new coronavirus, from making copies of themselves and potentially overwhelming the body's immune system. The drug previously failed trials as an Ebola treatment.

Remdesivir has been approved for emergency use in severely ill patients in the United States, India and South Korea, and has received full approval in Japan.

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