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Letters to the Editor: On paying $3,000 for a COVID-19 drug developed with taxpayer funding

COVID-19 testing
A nurse at a drive-up COVID-19 testing station in Washington holds a swab used to take a sample from a person’s nose.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

To the editor: David Lazarus brings up the important point in his column about pharmaceutical industry profiteering during the COVID-19 pandemic that the early development of remdesivir, an antiviral originally developed to treat hepatitis C, was taxpayer-funded.

In a letter published in this newspaper in 2016, I raised a similar point about another Gilead antiviral, Solvadi, suggesting that the pharmaceutical companies should be taxed to cover the development costs currently borne by taxpayers.

With the pivot away from sponsoring basic science research, the pharmaceutical industry is essentially choking off innovation by overly relying on others to make basic discoveries. I hope that people with influence realize that since the success of capitalism is rooted in scientific progress and innovation, well-run companies should plow back some of their profits into basic research and development.

Jonathan Kaunitz, MD, Santa Monica

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To the editor: This is surely a case of heads I win, tails you lose. U.S. taxpayers gave $70.5 million to Gilead to develop a drug for which they will now kindly charge COVID-19 patients $3,000 per dose.

How much clearer can it become that instead of allowing corporations to suck up our taxes and subsequently charge us for the favor, we need a public healthcare system based not on profit but entirely on making care available to everyone?

Curing COVID-19 isn’t optional, not if we ever hope to get back to normal. Yet how many infected Americans can afford to pay $3,000?

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Candida Pugh, Oakland

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To the editor: At a time when nearly 130,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, Gilead has the opportunity to be the first knight in shining armor by giving (yes, giving) this drug to the sick until further notice.

Just imagine: History would show that Gilead stepped forward and believed in people over profits. Instead, with at least $70.5 million received from taxpayers to develop remdesivir, Gilead is proving that the pharmaceutical sector is about money over goodwill.

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Conrad Angel Corral, Cathedral City


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