digicomphoto/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- California-based drugmaker Gilead Sciences announced its pricing plans for remdesivir, an antiviral COVID-19 drug candidate, saying the treatment will cost $520 per dose for U.S. private insurance companies and $390 per dose for the U.S. government.

For a majority of people who receive a five-day treatment of the drug using six vials (based on current patterns), the total for patients with private insurance in the U.S. will be $3,120. For those under U.S. government health programs the total will be $2,340 per patient.

While there is currently no FDA-approved products to treat or prevent COVID-19, remdesivir is the first antiviral medication to show effectiveness against the novel coronavirus in human clinical trials.

The pricing for the highly sought-after drugs were explained in an open letter from Daniel O'Day, the chairman and CEO of Gilead Sciences. He wrote, "There is no playbook for how to price a new medicine in a pandemic."

O'Day said the company has decided to "price remdesivir well below this value" based on tests that showed remdesivir shortened recovery time by an average of four days.

"At the level we have priced remdesivir and with government programs in place, along with additional Gilead assistance as needed, we believe all patients will have access," O'Day said.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Monday that President Donald Trump secured half a million treatment courses of remdesivir for U.S. hospitals through September.

"This is the drug that, if you're hospitalized, can reduce the length of your stay by a third," Azar told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Good Morning America.

The deal between the Trump administration and Gilead Sciences allows U.S. hospitals to purchase remdesivir in amounts allocated by the Department of Human and Health Services as well as state health departments.

The federal government is working with states to make sure the drug "gets to the hospitals most in need," Azar added.

Gilead originally developed remdesivir to treat patients with Ebola virus disease. In May, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the drug for emergency use to treat patients hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19. Since then, the U.S. government has been distributing treatment courses of remdesivir that were donated by Gilead.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.