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June 22 (Reuters) - Gilead Sciences Inc said on Monday it expects to be able to supply enough of its antiviral drug remdesivir by year end to treat more than 2 million COVID-19 patients, more than double its previous target of 1 million.
The company also said it hoped to start trials in August of an easier-to-use inhaled version of the medicine, currently administered only intravenously.
Remdesivir is at the forefront in the fight against the virus after the drug helped shorten hospital recovery times in a clinical trial. It was granted emergency use authorization in the United States and full approval in Japan.
But producing and supplying billions of doses remain major concerns as the fast-spreading virus that has infected over 9 million people globally threatens to overwhelm healthcare systems around the world.
"We will continue to collaborate globally to ensure sufficient worldwide supply," Gilead Chief Executive Officer Daniel O'Day said in a statement, adding that the company donated its existing supplies of remdesivir through June. (bit.ly/3eqpEJ9)
Indian drugmakers Hetero Labs and Cipla Ltd on Sunday gained approval to begin selling their generic versions of remdesivir in the country. Hetero expects the treatment to be priced at 5,000 to 6,000 rupees ($66-$79) for a 100 milligram dose.
Gilead said on Monday it had set up voluntary licensing agreements with nine generic manufacturers. Remdesivir has not been priced yet in the United States.
Gilead’s expectations of two million treatment courses suggests sales of between $2 billion and $3 billion between 2020 and 2021 at a price of $1,000 to $2,000 per course, according to Jefferies analyst Michael Yee.
An inhaled formulation of the drug will be administered via a nebulizer, which would allow for use outside of hospitals.
The company also announced plans for a “next wave” of remdesivir studies, including in pregnant women and in outpatient settings such as infusion centers and nursing homes. (Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; additional writing by Lewis Krauskopf, Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Bill Berkrot)
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