Gilead Sciences (GILD) shares traded higher Monday after the drugmaker said it will accelerate production of its nascent coronavirus treatment and provide more than 1 million free doses to patients suffering severe symptoms of the deadly disease.
Gilead said it will provide around 1.5 million doses of remdesivir, which could be used to help some 140,000 patients, at no charge to hospitals and clinics and will ramp up production to be able to treat 500,000 patients by October. It also hopes to have enough supply to treat a further 500,000 patients by the end of the year.
“We know the desperate urgency of reaching these patients and believe that the expanded access program will help to accelerate the process," CEO Daniel O'Day said Saturday. "New U.S. sites have been initiated and we are adding more on an ongoing basis. We are also making progress in Europe."
"Remdesivir is still an investigational medicine and has not been approved by regulatory authorities anywhere in the world," O'Day added. The safety and efficacy are not yet known so while we feel the greatest sense of urgency in our work with remdesivir, we must take the responsible, ethical approach of determining whether it is indeed a safe, effective treatment."
Gilead Sciences shares were marked 0.7% higher in early trading Monday to change hands at $78.75 each, a move that would extend the stock's six-month gain to around 26.5%.
Last month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration gave remdesivir special 'organ drug' status that could allow it to come to market faster than through a typical approval process.
The treatment, which was first designed to combat the Ebola virus, had been used on so-called compassionate grounds in Europe and the United States until the company had to limit access late last week due to an "exponential increase" in requests.
Gilead has said that around 1,000 patients suffering from both moderate and severe coronavirus symptoms were given varying doses of remdesivir as part of a Phase 3 study after the World Health Organization said the drug may be the "only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy" in treating the rapidly-spreading disease.
Gilead said it expects results from those trials as early as this month, and has vowed to increase supplies "as early as possible" in the near term.