The case of Remdesivir

How an unproven and potentially dangerous Covid19 drug treatment could be unleashed on the Caribbean

On 12 May the US Big Pharma corporation, Gilead Sciences Inc. announced that it had signed a licensing agreement with a number of drug manufacturers to produce the drug Remdesivir as a treatment for Covid 19 in what it described as ‘low-income and lower-middle-income countries’. Gilead also announced that they were in advanced discussions with UNICEF “to utilize their extensive experience providing medicines to low- and middle-income countries during emergency and humanitarian crises to deliver remdesivir using its well-established distribution networks”. The manufacturing companies who have signed the deal with Gilead are Cipla, Jubilant Lifesciences and Hetero Labs from India, Mylan, a Dutch registered company whose main office is in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania while its board of directors meets in the United Kingdom and Ferozsons Labs from Pakistan. On the announcement of the agreement, share prices in Cipla and Jubilant Lifesciences rose. The list of countries to which the licensees are to supply Remdesivir include 25 states in the Caribbean region, including all of CARICOM’s members.

Gilead Sciences Inc is one of the largest pharmaceutical corporations in the USA, with nearly 12,000 employees, assets in excess of US$60 billion and annual sales of over US$20 billion. Donald Rumsfeld, notorious warmonger from the George Bush administration, was chairman of the company from 1997 until he joined the Bush government and is understood to still hold shares in the company, while George Schultz, who was the US Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, continues to sit on its board of directors. The corporation made significant profits from its licensing deal with Roche, the Swiss drug manufacturer, for the production of Tamiflu as a treatment for the H1N1 swine flu, with its income from this revenue stream jumping from US$ 16 million in the 3rd quarter of 2008 to US$194 million in the 4th quarter. The use of Tamiflu for H1N1 swine flu turned out to be a complete scandal with numerous governments denouncing the waste of money spent on stocking up on the drug, many doses of which were never used, and with increasing alarm at some of its more dangerous side effects.

Gilead’s Remdesivir was originally developed as a treatment for hepatitis C but was found to be ineffective. It was later repurposed for use against Ebola and Marburg virus disease but was also found to be ineffective in treating these conditions. Recently, Gilead have turned their attention to using Remdesivir for treatment of Covid 19. Between February and March this year, clinical trials of the drug were carried out in Hubei province in China. The study, which involved 237 patients was conducted as a double blinded, randomised control test and its report was peer reviewed and published in The Lancet on April 29, 2020. Its principal finding was that Remdesivir “was not associated with a difference in time to clinical improvement”. It also noted that “Remdesivir was stopped early because of adverse events in 18 (12%) patients versus four (5%) patients who stopped placebo early”. However, on the 29 April, citing an incomplete clinical trial in the USA and a report which had not been peer reviewed, Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the US government’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, declared that Remdesivir as a treatment for Covid 19 disease was “quite good news” and that it set a new standard of care for Covid-19 patients. Then on 1 May, Trump met in the White House with the CEO of Gilead to announce that the US government’s Food and Drug Administration had granted emergency use authorization for Gilead’s Remdesivir drug to treat Covid19 disease. On this basis, the drug will now enter into production for use in the Caribbean. .

Below is a list of the Caribbean countries where the manufacturers will be attempting to market Remdesivir. It’s essential that the people of the region ensure that this unproven and potentially unsafe drug is kept out.

List of Caribbean territories to be targeted for Remdesivir sales

Antigua & Barbuda
Bahamas, The
British Virgin Islands
Cayman Island
Dominican Republic
Sint Maarten (Dutch part)
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Lucia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad & Tobago
Turks & Caicos

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