(Reuters) – Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) said on Friday it signed a multi-year agreement to make Gilead Sciences Inc’s (GILD.O) antiviral drug remdesivir in a bid to ramp up supply of the COVID-19 treatment.

Gilead is aiming to supply enough of the drug by the end of the year to treat more than 2 million COVID-19 patients, and agreed to send nearly all of its remdesivir supply to the United States through September.

But hospital staffers and politicians have complained about difficulties getting access to the drug, which is one of only two to have demonstrated an ability to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients in formal clinical trials.

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of state attorneys general urged the U.S. government to allow other companies to make Gilead’s remdesivir, to increase its availability and lower the price of the antiviral drug.

Gilead said its manufacturing network for the drug had grown to more than 40 companies in North America, Europe and Asia to add capacity.

Separately on Friday, Britain’s Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK.L) said it has started manufacturing remdesivir at its Portugal plant.

Pfizer will provide contract manufacturing services through its McPherson, Kansas plant, the drugmaker said. It was not immediately clear if Pfizer would supply only for the U.S. market.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a sign outside Pfizer Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Pfizer, with Germany’s BioNTech (22UAy.F), is also rushing to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus.

 

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

 
 
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