Brussels will buy an additional batch of Remdesivir – enough to treat thousands of Covid-19 patients – from US pharma company Gilead after countries across Europe reported shortages of the crucial anti-viral drug.

Gilead will ship nearly 20,300 additional doses to the EU for the treatment of around 3,400 patients under a new deal inked with the European Commission. The new supply, which is in addition to the 30,000 doses already bought in July, will cost €7 million ($8.2 million).

Remdesivir is one of the very few drugs approved to treat coronavirus infection in Europe. While it does not cure Covid-19 as such, the medication appears to be efficient in helping patients to recover faster and spend less time in hospital.

Unlike dexamethasone, a widely available and cheap steroid drug also used in Covid-19 therapy, Remdesivir is protected by US patent law, meaning that no other manufacturer can reproduce it without Gilead’s permit.

The news comes as doctors across Europe sounded the alarm over shrinking stockpiles of the American-made drug. Health officials in the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain told Reuters that some of their hospitals were down to their last remaining doses of Remdesivir, while in the UK, the NHS has been asked to ration the drug and give it only to patients suffering from coronavirus-related pneumonia.

Gilead has recently promised to ramp up production of Remdesivir – which is sold under the brand name Veklury – in order to meet mounting global demand due to Covid-19. Several countries, including India, Pakistan and Egypt, launched the production of Remdesivir generics under licensing agreements with the US firm to cover orders placed by developing nations. 

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