TOKYO -- Japan will not be able to receive a stable supply of promising coronavirus therapy remdesivir from its U.S. developer to treat all patients in need, Nikkei learned Friday.
Remdesivir's developer, Gilead Sciences, plans to distribute enough doses to cover 140,000 patients worldwide, but Japan will receive only a small portion of the supply.
Japanese regulators are prepared to fast-track approval of the antiviral drug once the treatment is approved overseas. But the national insurance program will not cover the therapy because there will not be a sufficient supply to cover all patients that require the treatment.
Once the drug is approved in Japan, Gilead will provide remdesivir for free and does not plan to apply for national insurance coverage. Since the treatment of all COVID-19 patients is covered by public funds, the patients will incur no cost.
Early U.S. government trial results on Wednesday showed the antiviral drug, initially developed for Ebola patients, helped patients recover more quickly than patients given a placebo. The drug is expected to be approved soon in the U.S. and Europe.
But the lack of supply means it will be a while before remdesivir becomes a major treatment option for Japan's coronavirus patients. Japan will have to step up the development of alternative treatment candidates.
Gilead plans to produce enough remdesivir for at least 500,000 patients by October, and for at least 1 million patients by next year.