A viral social media post falsely claims Dr. Anthony Fauci is “pushing” remdesivir as a potential COVID-19 treatment drug, because he “invented” it with Bill Gates and they stand to profit from it. Remdesivir was invented by the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, which receives any profit from sales of the drug as a treatment for COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has become a prominent figure during the COVID-19 pandemic since he began speaking regularly at daily press briefings of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in late January. But as a public backlash to mitigation measures has grown, so has the ire directed toward Fauci.
Fauci has been the target of death threats and bogus claims on social media, including a post that falsely claims he is advocating the use of remdesivir as a potential treatment for COVID-19, because he “invented” it, along with Bill Gates, and they’ll profit from its use.
“Hydroxychloroquine is cheap – 91% effective. Remdesivir is $1000 – under 50% effective,” the text meme reads. “Why is Fauci pushing Remdesivir? It was invented by Fauci and Gates. It’s stock is now soaring. Always follow the $$$$$$$.”
But neither Fauci nor Gates invented or stand to gain from remdesivir.
Since 1984, Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. Through his work, Fauci has been listed on patents as an inventor, with HHS colleagues, of various drugs, including treatments for HIV/AIDS.
However, HHS and Fauci do not hold a patent for remdesivir.
Remdesivir was invented by Gilead Sciences, a pharmaceutical company, following research that began in 2009 for treatment of hepatitis C and respiratory syncytial virus. Gilead received a patent for remdesivir in 2017 for treatment of filoviruses, such as Ebola. The company also received two other patents for remdesivir to treat filoviruses and coronaviruses in 2019.
Gilead has received an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for remdesivir as a treatment for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the company receives any profit from sales of the drug.
As part of the EUA granted by the FDA, Gilead has been donating remdesivir to the federal government to treat certain COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals. The company will donate 940,000 vials of remdesivir — enough to treat about 165,000 patients, an HHS spokesperson told the health news website STAT.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also was not involved in the invention or development of remdesivir, a spokesperson for the foundation confirmed to USA Today. Like Fauci, Gates has been the subject of online conspiracy theories.
In late April, Fauci spoke about a government study of remdesivir at a press conference with President Donald Trump, calling the results “very important proof of concept” and cause for optimism, but not a “knockout.”
The social media post is correct that the success rate for remdesivir in the initial study was modest — and Fauci has been transparent about that. On NBC’s “Today Show“ on April 30, he said that participants in the study who were given the drug showed a 31% “better chance of recovering” from COVID-19 than other participants in the study who were given a placebo.
On the other hand, the post’s claim about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine is inaccurate, as we’ve reported.
Despite Trump’s repeated promotion of hydroxychloroquine, and his announcement recently that he has been taking it, no studies have conclusively shown that it is effective in combating COVID-19, and certainly not 91% effective. The FDA has also warned against taking it outside of a hospital or clinical trial setting due to serious potential side effects, including heart problems.
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