Coronavirus Pandemic has claimed more than 3 million recorded patients across the world, along with more than 2,34,000 deaths and the numbers however bleak they maybe mean a big opportunity to Pharma companies. In fact, the Pandemic is to the ‘Big Pharma’ what a trans-national war means to a Defence Co.- opportunity to make unprecedentedly huge profits.
Leading the race to profiteer out of the ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity is the American biotechnology major Gilead Sciences. Gilead wants to sell the ‘Remdesivir’ drug, which was originally developed to cure the Ebola virus, as a cure for the novel Wuhan virus. Interestingly, the drug had actually failed as an Ebola cure, and as the disease had got wiped out too soon, Gilead’s investment had been wasted.
Remember, pharma is a ‘high risk, high reward’ avenue and therefore Gilead wants to make up for the sheer waste of investment that Remdesivir is turning out to be. This is why as soon as the pharma industry started finding a cure for the novel Coronavirus, Gilead started pitching for this failed Ebola drug aggressively.
Such has been the excitement incorporate interests around Remdesivir that there were deliberate attempts to discredit Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a preventive drug against Coronavirus, as a part of the campaign to promote the Gilead-owned drug.
Does Remdesivir work?
The trial results for the same drug have been mixed and befuddling, and recently the corrupt and criminally incompetent World Health Organisation (WHO) had accidentally published a study about the trial of the drug in China on its website, and a medical news website named STAT captured a screenshot of this post before it was taken down from the WHO website.
As per the study, the drug failed to improve patients’ or reduce the presence of viral load in the bloodstream. The trial enrolled 237 patients with 158 receiving Remdesivir while the rest receiving Placebo.
The drug failed to improve the condition of any patient and death rate was also similar. In fact, the death rate was higher at 13.9 per cent for Remdesivir against 12.8 per cent for the control group, making it a “no effect” drug in the best-case scenario and slightly counter-productive in the worst-case scenario.
This trial study was published in the Lancet journal, and Professor Bin Cao from China-Japan Friendship Hospital and Capital Medical University had said, “Unfortunately, our trial found that while safe and adequately tolerated, Remdesivir did not provide significant benefits over placebo.”
“Sample size too small”, say US-based researchers
The Chinese study on Remdesivir was the first randomised controlled trial, which is generally the gold standard of evaluating the efficacy of an intervention, but it was surreptitiously deleted from the WHO website, which makes the entire development all the more suspicious.
Meanwhile, there are attempts to downplay the trial study by claiming that the sample size was too small to make any cogent observations, and now a US government-backed study claims that patients with “advanced” symptoms recovered faster when administered Remdesivir than their counterparts who were administered a placebo.
The Chinese trial study published in The Lancet journal and ‘accidentally’ uploaded by the WHO was too small a sample size, but the same set of researchers want us to believe that they could muster together enough patients to observe something as minute and as subtle as a faster recovery in patients with “advanced” symptoms. Clearly, research values could be falling prey to vested interests.
Corporate excitement prevails over Scientific temper:
The Coronavirus Pandemic is a big disease- one of the biggest to have hit the world in several centuries, and now the Pharma companies are no longer about scientific temper and research values, but all about serving the corporate excitement. Why won’t the ‘Big Pharma’ won’t want to make the most out of this crisis?
Bloomberg Quint, which is owned by the American billionaire and co-founder of Bloomberg L.P. has been leading the pack in promoting the Gilead-developed drug and ‘Remdesivir’ owes much of its fame to Bloomberg Quint.
Meanwhile, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House task force too has taken a personal interest in this failed Ebola drug.
He said, “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” even though the trial studies have shown mixed results, at times, completely juxtaposed against each other.
There is no credible evidence to suggest that Remdesivir could play a role in speeding up the recovery of patients with “advanced symptoms”. But since it is no longer about scientific temper, the Corporate interests, that is, the ‘Big Pharma’ are able to find endorsement for the much-hyped drug.
Stakes are now running high even as the stock markets have gone bullish after claims of a major breakthrough in the form of Remdesivir. Shares of Gilead Sciences themselves have risen by more than 5.5% New York trading.