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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Now that the federal government is allowing the emergency use of remdesivir for coronavirus patients, and as the world awaits final clinical data on the drug's effectiveness, a giant question looms: What will the price be?

Why it matters: Gilead's pricing decision is important on its own, but it also will set the bar for how all coronavirus treatments that come after remdesivir will be priced.

Where it stands: Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day has punted all questions related to remdesivir's price thus far.

  • Gilead is giving away its existing remdesivir supply, which would cover about 140,000 patients, and won't land on a price until more data comes in.
  • The company is spending "up to $1 billion" on the drug, though it has also received sizable taxpayer investment for remdesivir — dating back to when the drug was tested for Ebola.

The intrigue: We have some ballpark pricing thresholds to consider based on a new report from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, an organization that analyzes drug prices.

  • $10 per treatment: This assumes a model where Gilead would only attempt to recover the basic costs of making remdesivir plus a small margin that generics typically earn. Even $10 per 10-day treatment, or $1 a day, is well above cost, according to researchers and consumer advocates.
  • $390 per treatment: So far, the science suggests remdesivir helps on the margins — it may get patients out of the hospital a few days quicker, but does not reduce the chance of death. A drug with that level of efficacy, if it's not being given away, should land at this price, ICER says.
  • $4,460 per treatment: This large jump in price assumes clinical trial data would show the drug saves lives. "That shows how important that mortality assumption is," ICER President Steve Pearson said.

The bottom line: Drug prices have taken a backseat to the pandemic, but remdesivir is about to make the issue very relevant again.

  • And Gilead is fully aware, saying in new investor filings Wednesday: "We are likely to face significant public attention and scrutiny about any future business models and pricing decisions with respect to remdesivir."

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Aug 14, 2020 - Health

California passes 600,000 confirmed coronavirus cases

A healthcare worker in Los Angeles handling a coronavirus test on. Aug 11. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California reported almost 8,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the state's tally to more than 600,000 since the pandemic began, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

Why it matters: California is the first state to surpass the 600,000-case milestone. It also reported 188 deaths associated with the virus on Friday, bumping its total to almost 11,000 — the third-highest death toll in the U.S. behind New York and New Jersey, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Aug 14, 2020 - Health

CDC: Those who recover from COVID-19 have 3-month window for safe mingling

Test tubes with blood samples of donors that have developed antibodies against the coronavirus. Photo: Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance Friday evening suggesting that those who test positive for COVID-19 and recover "do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to 3 months as long as they do not develop symptoms again."

What they're saying: "...this science does not imply a person is immune to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the 3 months following infection. The latest data simply suggests that retesting someone in the 3 months following initial infection is not necessary unless that person is exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19 and the symptoms cannot be associated with another illness."