The UK has enough stocks of the drug remdesivir after the US sparked anger, buying nearly all the stock for the next three months.
The Department of Health today confirmed it had secured supplies of the anti-viral pill that can speed the recovery of patients infected with the coronavirus.
Officials assured people they had bought enough of the drug in advance to treat every NHS patient who needs it.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed remdesivir the “biggest step forward” in treating Covid-19 when it was approved for use on the NHS in May.
The reassurance comes after the US Department of Health, and Human Services (HSS) said it had secured more than 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir for American hospitals.
This represents 100 per cent of the US pharmaceutical firm Gilead’s projected production for July, 90 per cent of production in August and 90 per cent of production in September, alongside an allocation for clinical trials.
The US sparked anger after brokering the deal while also gloating about the purchase.
America’s Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement: “President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19.”
But Oxford University’s Professor Peter Horby, who led trials when the drug was first developed, said: “It does raise two very important questions: what is a fair price for a drug and what is fair access to a drug, and those are common issues but are particularly important in a global crisis like this.
“That’s part of the fair access question, the trial that gave the result that allowed remdesivir to sell their drug wasn’t just done in the US, there were patients participating through other European countries, in the UK as well, and internationally, Mexico and other places.
“And I wonder how they would feel knowing now that the drug is going to have restricted availability in their own country and would they have volunteered for that trial if they had known that?”
Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug that was developed for use against Ebola.
It has been approved for use in Covid-19 patients by the US and the UK, among other countries, after data suggested it can cut recovery time by about four days.
However, there is no clinical trial data as yet to suggest it improves survival from coronavirus.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, told the Science and Technology Committee there are enough doses of remdesivir for use in the UK.
He said: “Right now, there are stocks in the UK – and I judge us to have adequate stocks – of pre-licenced, as in unlicensed, clinical trial stocks of remdesivir which are available to be used through the emergency access protocol.”
Gilead has said it will charge £1,900 for a typical treatment course for people in the US and other developed countries.
It will sell for less in poorer countries where generic drug-makers are being allowed to produce it.
Critics in the US attacked the price because taxpayers have funded much of the drug’s development.
UK business minister Nadhim Zahawi said governments and firms should cooperate to ensure access to coronavirus treatments.
“By attempting to compete, I think we ultimately undermine all of our strategies,” he said. “Much better to work together than to work to undermine each other.”