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Why are most of the medicines being approved for COVID-19 so expensive?

There is an urgent need to find a cure for COVID-19. Old drugs that have been developed and approved for one disease are now being evaluated to see if they can be used to reduce the severity and to bring down mortality of this new disease. Some drugs have been proven to be effective. Some have been found to have limited impact. Yet others have not been proven effective but are widely used anyway. All but one of these drugs is priced in the tens of thousands of rupees per course of treatment out of reach of most patients of COVID-19. Add the charges for other drugs and for the hospital. Families of patients are looking at bills of lakhs and lakhs of rupees. The bulk of people falling ill with COVID-19 are the poor and most vulnerable to infection because of their cramped living conditions, or because their work requires interaction with the public, such as frontline healthcare workers, bus conductors, shopkeepers, street vendors. But their doctors have told them that these drugs work. So they are among those standing in long lines outside pharmacies, for medicines which cost Rs 30,000 upwards.

In this episode, Sandhya Srinivasan, consulting editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics talks to Advocate Veena Johari who has worked for decades on legal action and has recently written a letter on behalf of the Cancer Patients’ Aid Association to revoke a patent on Remdesivir.

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Why are most of the medicines being approved for COVID-19 so expensive?

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