The European Union’s executive arm has signed a deal with Gilead Sciences for up to 500,000 treatment courses of its antiviral drug remdesivir, one of just two drugs approved to treat Covid-19 in Europe — the drug had been in short supply ever since the United States secured almost the entire world supply this summer.
A number of European countries are experiencing shortages of the drug amid a surge of Covid-19 infections.
The joint procurement contract — which was signed by 37 countries in total, including all 27 EU states, the U.K., six Balkan countries and other European Economic Area (EEA) members — will cover purchases of the drug for the next six months.
The agreement dwarfs a previous deal the bloc made with Gilead, which secured 33,380 treatment courses that have been distributed across the EU and U.K. since August.
Remdesivir — which can help some Covid-19 patients recover faster — is one of just two drugs approved to treat Covid-19 patients in the EU alongside the steroid dexamethasone.
United States President Donald Trump received doses of both drugs after being diagnosed with Covid-19 last week.
Coronavirus cases are surging across Europe with many countries starting to re-enact strict restrictions in a bid to control the outbreak. With winter likely to bring further cases, several countries were already facing shortages of remdesivir after the U.S. bought nearly the entire global supply a few months ago.
The European Commission says more joint procurement procedures are being prepared. It launched a joint procurement procedure for the supply of medical equipment for Covid-19 vaccination in September and is in the final stages of a deal to secure “essential ICU medicines”.
Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said in a press release: “Today we secure access to Remdesivir for the treatment of up to 500,000 patients in need. We are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure that safe and efficient therapeutics are available against COVID-19. Through our EU Joint Procurements, we are empowering countries across Europe to join forces and get access to vital equipment and medicines. We are always stronger together, and this is European solidarity in action against COVID-19.”