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Remdesivir priced up to $6,150 on black market in Turkey

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Remdesivir, a medication used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients that was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has gone on the black market in Turkey, with prices ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 lira, Turkish media reported.

Remdesivir is one of the world’s only COVID-19 treatments with regulatory approval; however, the World Health Organization (WHO) reportedly excluded the antiviral from a COVID-19 drug scheme aimed at supplying medications to less affluent countries.

Branded as a “miracle treatment” by many through word of mouth and with some experts backing its use in the treatment of coronavirus patients, the price of Remdesivir, not available in the Turkish market according to pharmaceutical company Gilead, which manufactures the drug, soared to more than 20,000 Turkish lira ($2,470 at the time of writing), the Birgün daily claimed.

Pulmonologist Bülent Tutluoğlu claimed in late October that the price of the drug had hit absurd levels, with families willing to pay nearly 50,000 Turkish lira ($6,150 at the time of the writing) calling on the government to intervene.

Gilead Sciences came under criticism when it said it would charge $2,340 for a typical treatment course for people covered by government health programs in the United States and other developed countries. In a US government-led study, Remdesivir shortened recovery time by 31 percent.

As Turkey grapples with a currency crisis and tries to recover from an earthquake that hit its Aegean coast and claimed 115 lives, a recent surge in COVID cases saw officials scramble for a response.

The German government has extended its travel warning for four Turkish coastal provinces due to Ankara’s failure to disclose its official data on asymptotic COVID-19 cases.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca made a bombshell revelation on September 30, acknowledging that the government does not add the number of people infected with the coronavirus who are asymptomatic to the final statistics, sparking outrage among the Turkish public.

As part of the new measures announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening, businesses such as restaurants, pastry shops, hairdressers, swimming pools, Internet cafes, theaters and cinemas will be closed at 10 p.m. Restaurants will be allowed to make home deliveries after that time. The measures also include flexible working hours for public servants.

“These measures are, unfortunately, inadequate to eradicate the problem. We need more effective measures just like those in Europe. The second wave [of infections] in Europe has begun with more strength than the first wave, and tight measures have been taken. We are stuck in the middle of the first wave and going upwards. It’s a pipe dream to expect good results when our measures are not stronger than the virus,” Elif Dağlı, a professor of pulmonology, said.

The Turkish government refuses to declare a lockdown or take preventative measures to bring the pandemic under control. A partial lockdown declared in the spring months was lifted in June.

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