LEE CAMP: The Life-Saving Covid-19 Drugs You’ve Never Heard Of (and Why)

Must cut-throat late-stage capitalism always be so predictable?

By Lee Camp
Special to Consortium News

The American profit-based healthcare system impacts us in more ways than just our gargantuan bill at the excretion end of an emergency room visit. Right now, our lovable idiotic inhumane healthcare system is acting as a hurdle to the manufacture and procurement of the right drugs to treat Covid-19.

One of the drugs currently trumpeted as our savior is remdesivir. Despite sounding like the name of a Hobbit in Middle Earth, some reports from the corporate media make it sound like the drug will thrust us face-first into a fresh world of happiness — water parks and restaurants and random no-holds-barred make-outs with strangers. A world where when someone sneezes, we don’t dive under our desk with an adult diaper strapped on our face as a makeshift mask.

There’s only one problem. The big pharma company that owns remdesivir, Gilead, has already made clear their plans to profiteer from this pandemic. As The LA Times put it

“Drugmaker Gillead says it’s doing you a favor by setting the price for its pending COVID-19 treatment, remdesivir, at more than $2,000 for government agencies and over $3,000 for private insurers.”

How does the CEO of Gilead, Daniel O’Day, justify this disgusting price point? He claims they’re under-pricing remdesivir. He said, “In normal circumstances, we would price a medicine according to the value it provides. …Earlier hospital discharge would result in hospital savings of approximately $12,000 per patient.”

The value it provides?? So, if a doctor saves someone’s life with heart surgery, then that guy owes the doctor the entire worth of the rest of his life? Millions of dollars? Maybe he should become the surgeon’s butler or wet nurse.

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day, third from left, in White House, May 1, 2020, for the announcement  of FDA approval of remdesivir for immediate clinical trials for treatment of Covid-19. (White House, Joyce N. Boghosian)

Saying something should cost even close to the value it provides ranks up there as one of the stupidest arguments ever spoken. (Second only to when the people at Mountain Dew argued that human beings would love a Doritos-flavored soft drink named “Dewitos.”) So, for a dude taking Viagra who can now get it up, he owes the makers of Viagra – what? – sex with his wife? Or does he just owe them 300 orgasms? Or perhaps he owes them the child he’s able to produce while taking the pills. (“Dear Cialis Folks, I’m emailing to ask for a mailing address to send you my 2-year-old, Robbie. Fair is fair. I want to give you the value of your goods. Just be careful – he bites a lot. And he’s already totally racist. Not sure how he picked that up so young.”)

But there’s another catch to Gilead’s price-gouging shenanigans. They didn’t create remdesivir. We did. You and me.

Public Citizen revealed that Gilead raked in over $70 million from taxpayers. Plus, federal scientists ran the team that found out remdesivir also worked against Coronaviruses. And, “The National Institutes of Health ran the trial that led to remdesivir’s emergency use authorization, and public funding is supporting clinical trials around the world today.”

You and I paid for the creation and research behind remdesivir. There is absolutely no reason we should fill the pockets of Gilead’s preposterously rich CEO and its board. Most countries realize this. Most countries don’t behave this way. Most countries have some tiny modicum of respect for the lives of their citizens. …America is not most countries. 

FEMA-coordinated shipments of remdesivir arrive in Texas for delivery to hospitals for treatment of Covid-19 patients. (FEMA, Julie Joseph)

Back to the LA Times, “Nearly all other developed countries limit how much pharmaceutical companies can charge for prescription meds. …The U.S. doesn’t operate like that. We allow drug companies to charge as much as they please…”

Perhaps prescription meds that cost the same as landing a man on Mars (in a pair of Jimmy Choo heels) are the reason 42 percent of new cancer patients have their entire life savings wiped out within two years. The average amount drained from a patient is nearly $100,000, and the entire medical costs for U.S. cancer patients per year is $80 billion. Why ever change a system that piles such bulbous mountains of cash in the vaults of those running the show?

Apparently most other national governments don’t want to ruin the lives of every cancer survivor. As to why not, one can only guess.

But this story gets crazier. Not only is remdesivir way over-priced, we’re not even sure it does much. Some studies show it achieves almost nothing. Meanwhile, according to the Intercept – 

“[A]nother Covid-19 treatment has quietly been shown to be more effective. …A three-drug regimen offered a greater reduction in the time it took patients to recover than remdesivir did. …People who took the combination of interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin got better in seven days as opposed to 12 days for those who didn’t take it.”

However, I have yet to hear of a mad rush to hoard those drugs. Why is that? Probably because those drugs don’t have colossal marketing campaigns that would make Coca-Cola blush. In fact there appears to be no marketing campaign whatsoever for the more effective drugs. To figure out why that is, one simply must follow the money.

[E]ach of the three drugs in the new combination is generic, or no longer under patent, which means that no company stands to profit significantly from its use.”

Must cut-throat late-stage capitalism always be so predictable?

Only the ridiculousy profitable drugs are worth hyping. Only the money makers deserve 80,000 commercials telling every consumer to irrationally demand them. The cheap drugs that simply – save lives – those are garbage. What’s the point of saving a life if you can’t make a bundle from it? I’ve always said, “A life saved without extracting a shitload of money from it, is a life lost.”

I don’t know that this last part needs saying, but I’m going to do it anyway. When a society has a system built on profit, run by sociopaths, based on the manipulation of lizard-brain impulses, then it will always end up in a race to the bottom. With unfettered capitalism we inevitably find ourselves with the worst drugs, priced at the highest amounts, hoarded by those who need them the least.

… Unless we’re talking about recreational illegal drugs. Those are cheaper than ever.

If you feel this column is important, please share it.

Lee Camp is the host of the hit comedy news show “Redacted Tonight.” His new book “Bullet Points and Punch Lines” is available at LeeCampBook.com and his standup comedy special can be streamed for free at LeeCampAmerican.com.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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38 comments for “LEE CAMP: The Life-Saving Covid-19 Drugs You’ve Never Heard Of (and Why)

  1. July 18, 2020 at 10:23

    Because there is no money to be made by big pharma in the USA with respect to Cannabis, most if not all research is either overlooked, buried or stopped dead in its tracks. Here is a study done in Canada: see: ajc.com/news/canadian-study-finds-that-enzymes-cannabis-could-treat-covid/xtpNkbXF8JQosUNWYeTdpM/ People need to stop being negatively influenced by those who wish to shed a bad light on something that could potentially help stop COVID-19 in its tracks. Cannabis has already been proven to stop seizures, help with Parkinson’s, assist in pain management and more – what is so frightening about it that we allow our government to make it illegal? There are so many drugs advertised on television that have so many side effect – including death – and yet people run to their doctors demanding them. There are few if any side effects associated with Cannabis – wake up people, you are being duped yet again…

  2. Laura Wilder
    July 18, 2020 at 00:39

    Another effective COVID-19 treatment protocol to check out: MATH

    “Our MATH+ Hospital Treatment Protocol for COVID-19 is designed only for hospitalized patients, to be initiated as soon as possible ­after admission to counter the body’s overwhelming inflammatory response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The protocol is based on numerous medical journal publications over decades. It is the hyper-inflammation, not the virus itself, that damages the lungs and other organs and ultimately causes death in COVID-19. We have found the MATH+ protocol to be a highly effective combination therapy in controlling this extreme inflamma­tory response. The steroid Methylpredni­solone is a key component, increasing numbers of studies (see Medical Evidence) show its profound effectiveness in ­COVID-19, which is made more potent when administered intrave­nously with high doses of the antioxidant Ascorbic acid given­ that the two medicines have multiple synergistic physiologic effects. ­Thiamine is given to optimize cellular oxygen utilization and energy consumption, protecting the heart, brain, and immune ­system. The anticoagu­lant Heparin is important for preventing and dissolving blood clots that appear with a very high frequency in patients not given blood thinners. The + sign indicates several important co-interventions that have strong physiologic rationale and an excellent safety profile. It also indicates that we plan to adapt the protocol as our insights and the published medical evidence evolve.”

    SEE: hxxps://covid19criticalcare.com/treatment-protocol/

  3. Paul Marchand
    July 17, 2020 at 22:26

    Did anyone see the Henry Ford Hospital study with Plaquenil and Zithromax, This looks like a good study and is large enough. These are the same drugs that came out of the paper published in Marseille, France. This is also the paper that President Trump spun his tall tale about. Both these drugs are out of patent and would not be big money makers for Big Pharma. Disclaimer: Do NOT drink fishbowl cleaner.

  4. July 17, 2020 at 20:12

    I would suggest that journalists and the media might have some responsibility. Where are the investigative journalists that are uncovering and the newspapers and tv etc. that are revealing these things to the people?

    The politicians that have been involved in protecting the secrets of the medical establishment have yet to be vetted by the media. There is no unfettered capitalism at work here. It is crony capitalism – not true capitalism.

    • Skip Scott
      July 18, 2020 at 13:07

      Don’t hold your breath waiting. Big Pharma means Big Bucks for the MSM. There is plenty revealed on the internet, but those articles only reach an insignificant portion of the population. It is Robert Parry’s “Mighty Wurlitzer” at work once more.

      I would suggest that those who are responsible should be prosecuted for murder. It is that bad. Check this out:


    • Manifold Destiny
      July 18, 2020 at 16:08

      Actually I would argue that we ARE seeing “true capitalism” – the desire for endless growth will quite naturally lead to the kind of price-gouging Mr Camp so convincingly describes.

      “Where are the investigative journalists?” for which you so rightfully ask. Again, a natural outcome of capitalism. It doesn’t “pay” to put resources into investigation when it’s much cheaper to copy and paste. No growth there. (One must turn to a website such as this if “investigation” is what you’re after, lol)

      The best argument I’ve seen is for a “circular” economy. One which mimics nature wherein sustainability is the essence, not growth.

  5. Peter in Seattle
    July 16, 2020 at 23:06

    To be fair, the cost of two extra days in intensive care is far higher in the US than in other developed countries, because price-gouging, so, you know… :-(

  6. IvyMike
    July 16, 2020 at 19:57

    Another important reason the 3 drug cocktail mentioned is ignored by U.S. is that it was largely pioneered by Cuba.

    • Nylene13
      July 17, 2020 at 14:09

      True! Excellent Point.

  7. Rob Roy
    July 16, 2020 at 17:49

    For AnneR,
    Lee did not imply, nor even hint that big pharmaceuticals started gouging only when Trump got into office.
    Great article, Lee. You are always informative and a jump ahead of most other journalists, well the MSM for sure.

  8. Wayne Luney
    July 16, 2020 at 17:41

    Has anyone noticed that the name of the drug company Gilead is the same as that of the fictional totalitarian country in “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood?

  9. rosemerry
    July 16, 2020 at 16:43

    Lee has chosen one example, which happens, I understand, to be a drug easily produced in generic form and will be so, in India. The USA, of course, is now wasting billions for the Gilead version for certain persons in the USA only, which may or may not help them.
    A recent article I will find the reference to shows that many well-known CHEAP older drugs have a beneficial effect on covid-19 -positive people if taken early or even before infection eg BCG vaccine against TB, over 100 years old, is routinely given to children in many countries and is shown to reduce greatly the symptoms of covid-19, avoiding hospitalisation and deaths. This applied to a US ship full of marines (BCG routinely given to all recruits) and only ONE person of the many infected was hospitalised and died- all the rest recovered well.
    Of course , this is NON profit-making, so un-American!!!!

  10. Taras77
    July 16, 2020 at 14:41

    Great article!

    I am always concerned about the corruption, the grift, and the graft from this virus and the propaganda on going about the vaccines. The first question always comes up, where is fausi in all of this, and where is kushner, with his family ties with the so-called health industry.

    In other words, who benefits from the obvious race for huge pay offs.

    • James Mooney
      July 16, 2020 at 19:59

      Yet the corrupt MSM touts hyper-expensive Remdesivir but won’t mention Ivermectin , because it’s off-patent and would cost almost nothing.

  11. July 16, 2020 at 14:06


  12. journey80
    July 16, 2020 at 13:31


  13. Michael Hughes
    July 16, 2020 at 13:28

    The statements below are from

    swprs.org/a-swiss-doctor-on-covid-19/ which reports “Facts about Covid-19” gleaned from the scientific and medical literature.

    French professor of medicine Jaouad Zemmouri, for example, estimates that Europe could have avoided up to 78% of Covid deaths by adopting a consistent hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) treatment strategy.

    HCQ contraindications such as favism or heart problems need to be considered, but the recent Ford Medical Center study achieved a reduction in hospital deaths of around 50% even with 56% African-American patients (who more often have favism).

    More recently, a case study from France showed that in four of the first five patients treated with the much more expensive drug Remdesivir from the pharmaceutical company Gilead, treatment had to be discontinued due to liver issues and kidney failure.

  14. mary-lou
    July 16, 2020 at 13:09

    ‘Remdesivir Gets a Price Tag of $3,210 Despite Showing No Evidence of Decreasing COVID-19 Deaths’ (Stacey Lennox/PJMedia, Jun 29, 2020)

  15. Lolita
    July 16, 2020 at 12:58

    Besides, a June 30 published paper in International Journal of Infectious Disease concludes:

    1) Remdisivir infusion was associated with decreasing viral loads from nasopharyngeal samples despite active replication in the lower respiratory tract area evidenced for two patients.
    2) The treatment had to be interrupted for potential side effects for 4 out 5 patients including two alamine aminotransferase (ALT) elevation and two renal failure cases.

    Not only the viral load did not diminish but 4 out pf 5 patients had renal failure with 2 having to undergo surgery. So calling it “live saving” is misleading.

    see: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1201971220305282?

  16. Truth first
    July 16, 2020 at 12:44

    USA #1, in everything including rip-offs and number of wars.

    What a country!!!

  17. Bob
    July 16, 2020 at 12:11

    I’m surprised that Trump didn’t appoint Martin Shkreli head of the FDA. Only the best people…

  18. July 16, 2020 at 11:53

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article, Lee. The next step in overcoming this strangle-hold by neoliberal grifters would be to enable a wide common front of public interest-focused groups around the world to become part of #SDG3 and to begin reclaiming health services for the cause of improved outcomes for wellbeing. The whole 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 ought to be known everywhere and countries that have a clear and common-sense grasp of how to manage SARS-Cov-2 like China and New Zealand should be joining forces on this.

  19. July 16, 2020 at 11:28

    The system in the US is not capitalism, but corporatism! Corporatism is what the founding fathers of the US rebelled against when the country was formed. Currently corporatism actually have more rights than biological people

    • Skip Scott
      July 17, 2020 at 08:08

      IMO Corporatism and the “financialization” of Capitalism has been its doom. Small “c” capitalism, where you make something in a competitive environment and sell it for profit in a system that is regulated to exclude things like health care, education, banking and other areas that should be publicly owned as “infrastructure”, is fine. Like so many other things, it has been corruption that has been Capitalism’s downfall.

  20. AnneR
    July 16, 2020 at 11:03

    Ta very much, Lee, for this most apposite and, of course, amusing expressed piece. Sometimes humor is so needed to help digest the awfulness of “our” system of Mammon worship (which so hand-in-hand with Moloch worship hereabouts).

    The reality, as you point out, is that we in the US pay super-exorbitantly for drugs (and all medical “care” – don’t get me going in that [care] direction) that all other places in the world provide for free or at very low cost. Hmmm. How do they do that? Even poor countries.

    And my late husband and I experienced this price contrast reality time and again in various countries from England, to Morocco, to Germany, to Turkey, to Mexico and, bien sur, here in good ol’ USofA. He was a Type 1 diabetic; I was all too inclined to try to help feral domestic cats (rabies). (Actually I’d rather have helped dogs, being more inclined to canines than felines, but it was what it was.)

    So, no, Lee, the avariciousness of companies like Gilead comes, dreadfully, as no surprise at all.

  21. John Drake
    July 16, 2020 at 10:30

    Great article, “What’s the point of saving a life if you can’t make a bundle from it? That says it all about what Trumpistan has become; although that attitude was well established before him. He and his lot have just lowered it to new lows. Humor is so helpful when describing events that are utterly infuriating and/or depressing; and it illustrates the absurdity.

    I must disagree about the “lizard brain ” analogy. This is insulting to lizards most of whom are quite nice and cute; except the gila monster which might best represent the denizens of the White House. However the gila is considered one of the most intelligent lizards, so that may not be a fitting analogy for the intellectual vacuum in said residence/office complex.

    • AnneR
      July 16, 2020 at 12:59

      Really? So this “What’s the point of saving a life if you can’t make a bundle from it?” did NOT exist in the USA *before* Trumpista? Really? You’re joking, surely? Wasn’t there, during Obama’s reign, that young man who took over one of the drug companies producing a medicine (name I can’t recall) which until his take over had been reasonably priced (for this country) and then he punched up the price into the stratosphere?

      The Trumpista has revealed (unwittingly no doubt) the utter and total ugliness of the reality of the US polity, its ruling elites’ views, attitudes made real, concrete. Its polity domestic and international. The neo-liberal, Wall street suckers up and compatriots, Blue Faces of the single (Janus – two headed) party, the ones with the smooth, pretty, so called “progressive” patina, the more appealing, softer but equally grotesque, obscene program against the rest of the world and the un-rich domestically are NO different in fact, or in policy, viewpoint – except for a handful of those “progressive diversity” crapolas.

      Smoke and mirrors. And NO I’m not by any means a Trumpista – nor a Bidenista, ta very much. Sanders is/was barely in my political ballpark.

    • Nylene13
      July 17, 2020 at 14:21

      Thank you. I also posted a Lizard defense to Lee Camps article on Progressive News.
      I once had an encounter with a gila monster-and he did not bite me, which was quite nice of him under the circumstances.

      It is like Sharks, most attacks are by mistake, if Sharks really wanted to hunt humans, people could not go in the oceans-ever.

  22. Herb
    July 16, 2020 at 10:16

    I agree that Gilead should not be able to gauge prices on Remdesivir. However, Lee Camp goes too far when he suggests other drugs he thinks may be better. Camp is not a doctor and is not qualified to make those kinds of judgments. The source he cites, The Intercept, is not a medical journal, and is similarly unqualified.

    • JoeSixPack
      July 16, 2020 at 14:13

      Lee Camp cites an Intercept article that quotes a scientist, William Haseltin who “founded the divisions of biochemical pharmacology and human retrovirology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health.”

      Haseltin points out that ” Gilead hasn’t released data showing remdesivir’s effect on viral load in people with Covid-19. ”

      So are you saying Haseltin is not qualified?

    • Herb
      July 16, 2020 at 16:11

      JoeSixPack In the end, Haseltin is just one scientist. Even the best scientists can make mistakes (e.g. Linus Pauling pushing Vitamin C as a common cold cure based on dubious evidence). The bulk of the scientific community seems to favor Remdesivir as a treatment.

    • Skip Scott
      July 17, 2020 at 10:39


      There are many highly qualified doctors and scientists who are not featured in the MSM, and have not been corrupted by the power of big money. Big Pharma has utterly corrupted what you call the “scientific community”, which is actually those allowed on MSM platforms.

      Everyone is qualified to think for himself, do INDEPENDENT research, and make any judgements produced by those efforts. Your effort to herd people into “group think”, and acceptance of “authority” (which is nothing more than passive consumption of propaganda) won’t get much traction with this crowd.

  23. Mike
    July 16, 2020 at 02:39

    Lee is right about Remdesivir. Since this started and we are stuck at home, I have been researching and following what regular Doctors are saying. Remdisivir may cut your stay in the hospital by 2 days? They have not released the data yet. But they tweaked the study because it didn’t work and gave the subjects organ damage.
    HCQ Zinc works if given in the first 7 to 8 days. There are 50 studies that say it does. The studies they are touting that say it does not all gave it to people after 9 days or more into the infection.
    Dr. Joseph Varon Texas and many other Drs are using several drug therapies that help a lot. Not Remdesivir.
    Countries in the Global South all have death rates much lower than ours. Why? In India they are using HCQ and several other drugs.
    They hand out Vit C Vit D and Zinc to at risk populations. So are Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi and others.
    Their death rates are much lower than ours.
    I urge everyone to do your own research. See what Doctors who treat people are saying. Someone reminded me that Donald Rumslfeld was the longtime CEO of Gilead. And helped them milk the taxpayers for millions of dollars.

    • Bruce P.
      July 16, 2020 at 15:02

      Rumsfeld supposedly also got Aspartame approved. It puts holes in brain tissue.

    • SkepticalBoomer
      July 16, 2020 at 15:49

      Good article! Also – inhaled, nebulized steroids used for asthma are effective for treating COVID-19 lung inflammation – see Dr. Richard Bartlett’s work. Death rates in southeast Asia are much lower than in the West – why?
      The US Surgeon General should be coordinating and pushing out information about effective treatments, based on the successes of clinicians around the world. But the USSG seems to be MIA. Continuing research on the virus is important but we need to be using the best possible treatments NOW instead of waiting for the so-called “gold-standard” double-blind studies of extremely expensive drugs.

    • Herb
      July 16, 2020 at 16:13

      Any one who relies on vitamins to protect themselves from this is a fool. This isn’t the time to trust medical advice from Google University.

  24. Jeff Harrison
    July 15, 2020 at 22:44

    Go buy the Russian product. They claim in clinical trials it works and it will be cheaper.

    • Paul
      July 16, 2020 at 15:32

      To Jeff Harrison.
      What is your point?
      Maybe you mean in the same way the US had to buy rocket engines from Russia for the space program because the US could not make them.
      That way?

Comments are closed.