Govt may not press Gilead on remdesivir
Having burnt its fingers with Gilead’s hepatitis C drug back in 2015—a move that saw the US retaliate—the Indian government is not keen on asking Gilead to compulsorily issue the generic licence of its novel drug, two senior Indian government officials said.Updated: Apr 28, 2020 08:21 IST
India is counting on California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. to voluntarily issue generic licences for the antiviral drug remdesivir, said to be one of the more promising drugs being tested to treat Covid-19.
Having burnt its fingers with Gilead’s hepatitis C drug back in 2015—a move that saw the US retaliate—the Indian government is not keen on asking Gilead to compulsorily issue the generic licence of its novel drug, two senior Indian government officials said. Instead, the government is hoping Gilead will voluntarily issue licences for its patented drug, like it did for the hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi, in 2015, the first official said, on condition of anonymity. Compulsory licensing allows generic drugmakers to produce a patented product without having to take permission from the patent holder. Such moves, though rare, give governments the firepower to confront emergency health challenges.
“We do not plan to get the drug under compulsory licensing. If you look at Gilead’s history, they have gone for voluntary licensing before with their hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi. They may give voluntary licence for this product also,” the official said.
To be sure, the drug has to first clear clinical trials, which are underway. Gilead is doing about half-a-dozen clinical trials globally for the drug. The drug is also being tested under the Solidarity Trial by the World Health Organization. Another major trial is jointly supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and Mastercard.
“We will wait until it is found to be effective and production continues before we take a final decision on how to procure it,” the second government official said.
Banking on Gilead to voluntarily licence the drug could however be risky, potentially creating uncertainty over its supply, especially if trials are successful.
Experts said remdesivir is one of the most promising candidates for treating covid-19 and is considered better than hydroxychloroquine, although a large-scale clinical trial is yet to be completed on either