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EU rushes to authorize Remdesivir as U.S. hoards it

Christian Fernsby |
The European Commission on Friday rushed to announce it has given the green light to anti-viral drug Remdesivir for treatment of coronavirus, making it the first drug authorized at the European Union (EU) level for the purpose.

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Topics: REMDESIVIR    U.S.   

EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said the EU has expedited the authorization, approving the drug, made by American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, in an exceptionally short timeframe.

"We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to secure efficient treatments or vaccine against the coronavirus," said Kyriakides in a statement.

The question now is whether there are enough doses to be left at the disposal of the EU in the near future, as news broke this week that the United States has locked down all the production for July and 90 percent of it for August and September.

Gino Martini, chief scientist of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, said the U.S. action will put clinical supply chains under strain, and it will be down to Gilead to boost production in order to satisfy the demand.

He noted that Remdesivir is still classed as an investigational drug, and its use for COVID-19 in the United States is only permitted in emergency use.

"Scaling up medicines to a production level is not a trivial matter and is controlled by regulatory and quality control standards and so takes time," he said.

The professor said he would expect Remdesivir to "become available simultaneously across the world" if the evidence continues to support the use of Remdesivir to treat coronavirus.

A spokesman for the European Commission told a press conference on Thursday that Brussels heard of the U.S. move from media reports, meaning Washington didn't bother to inform its allies beforehand.

The U.S. move seemed more annoying to European experts.

Ohid Yaqub, a senior lecturer at the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex in England, said the buying-up of Remdesivir is disappointing "not necessarily because of the shortages it implies for other countries, but because it so clearly signals an unwillingness to cooperate with other countries."

Karl Lauterbach, an epidemiologist and health expert of Social Democratic Party of Germany, called it an "unfriendly" action. "If we approached the vaccine this way later, we would certainly all have big problems," Lauterbach told German broadcasting Deutschlandfunk.

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