Dexamethasone: Will recent results on COVID-19 drive up the price?

By Musa Kureshy, Business Development Manager & Tom Brockbank, Senior Consultant

On Tuesday 16th of June, new research was published by scientists from Oxford University which showed that the use of Dexamethasone, a low-dose steroid treatment, on patients suffering from COVID-19 reduced deaths by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for patients receiving oxygen treatment.

Due to this significant improvement in death rate shown by the therapy, the UK government provided instant approval for its use for patients suffering from COVID-19, creating a new standard of care in the UK.

The research was published from the RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy) trial, launched in March 2020 to test six potential COVID-19 treatments by a team at Oxford University. This was the same trial which earlier in June concluded that Hydroxychloroquine provided no clinical benefit in the treatment of COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine is the same medicine which was hailed as a cure for COVID-19 by President Trump leading to hoarding of this medicine and, effectively, a global increase in its price. Will Dexamethasone also face the same global reaction that hydroxychloroquine got from the “Trump effect”?…Possibly.

Dexamethasone is an off-patent medicine and available in generic and branded generic form globally making it a quite affordable treatment. The treatment itself has been available since the 1960’s and has been on the WHO’s Model List of Essential medicines since 1977 in multiple formulations.

A recent price analysis leveraging data extracted from GPI pulse, GPI’s proprietary Pricing & Reimbursement platform, showed that Dexamethasone price per MG/tablet has been steady for the past few years with only changes observed in the USA.

This story is also mirrored for branded generics across the UK where there has been very little change in the price of the medicine.

The price may seem steady for the time being; however, as with Hydroxychloroquine, the “Trump effect” led to a 1000% increase in demand and this, effectively, resulted to demand and supply issue which in turn increased the price for this usually affordable medicine.

We can assume that with substantiated evidence and UK government backing, the demand for Dexamethasone globally will increase and, in turn, there might be an increase in its price. The percentage of the increase will be totally dependent on current country stockpiles and the industry’s response to ramp up production. On the other hand, considering the fact that Dexamethasone has been on WHO’s model list of essential medicines for over 40 years now, the price change might not be as major as observed with hydroxychloroquine.

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