Campaigners unfurl banner outside GlaxoSmithKline Annual General Meeting demanding subsidiary ViiV Healthcare sell new injectable at a price comparable to generic oral prevention pills, and immediately commit to sharing technology with generic manufacturers
As GSK shareholders gather in person at the company’s Annual General Meeting today at the Sofitel London Heathrow, they were greeted by angry activists from Just Treatment and ACT UP London who, unfurled a banner reading “GSK: PrEP PROFITEERS, HIV Prevention 100x More Expensive Than Gold” to protest the pharma company’s profiteering on a game-changing new HIV prevention shot, long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA) for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). GSK is refusing to ensure global access to injectable PrEP, although it holds the potential to revolutionize HIV prevention, particularly for young women in sub-Saharan Africa, gay men, and transgender women. Organizations from across sub-Saharan Africa and around the world have been demanding global access to this new HIV prevention tool, which is more effective than oral daily PrEP pills in preventing HIV transmission but is priced far out of reach of communities most in need.
Viiv Healthcare, a GSK subsidiary, holds the patent monopoly on long-acting injectable PrEP, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on December 20, 2021. Taken every two months, CAB-LA is a highly effective HIV prevention drug that stands to significantly advance the end of HIV transmissions, if made accessible.
Whilst experts estimate injectable PrEP could be made for $20 per person per year, ViiV is instead pricing CAB-LA for PrEP at $23,000 per person per year in the U.S. and is poised to charge $240-$270 per person per year in low-income countries, putting the drug far out of reach for those who need it most.
“GSK shareholders need to know that – unless there’s a change in corporate strategy – their profits will be earned in large part by blocking access to an essential prevention tool that has the potential to change the course of the HIV pandemic,” said Wiz Baines, Pharma Campaigns Lead at Just Treatment, who took part in the protest. “Pricing CAB-LA at over 1000 times what it costs to manufacture is immoral, and will put access in the UK through the NHS at risk – never mind in countries across the developing world. GSK has a choice: make HIV prevention shots accessible to everyone who needs them, or make the largest profits possible. GSK is choosing profits over people’s health once again.”
Mare Tralla, of ACT UP London added, “What good is a revolutionary scientific advancement in HIV prevention if GSK’s despicable greed is denying women and girls, gay men, transgender women and other communities most vulnerable to HIV infection around the world this vastly superior HIV prevention tool? GSK should be ashamed to face the public and tout their profits knowing full well they are pricing their product out of reach of the communities most vulnerable to HIV in order to maximise profits. If GSK doesn’t drop the price and share the technology, they will heighten dangerous HIV prevention inequities that will disproportionately harm Black and Brown women and girls around the world.”
Kenly Sikwese, coordinator of the African Community Advisory Board (AfroCAB), said, “At a time when the global HIV response must be stepped up in order to win back progress lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, GSK and ViiV’s decision to price CAB-LA far out of reach for people in most low-income countries, makes them ultimately responsible for repeating history – creating avoidable access barriers like those that put oral PrEP access in sub-Saharan Africa a decade behind the global north, resulting in millions of avoidable HIV infections and needlessly prolonging the global HIV epidemic.”
Activists are demanding GSK subsidiary ViiV:
Research has found that CAB-LA, is superior to oral PrEP for HIV prevention, including among transgender women, cisgender adolescent girls and women, gay men and other men who have sex with men—populations that are made extremely vulnerable to HIV infection because of discrimination, criminalization, and marginalization. Adherence to a daily oral PrEP regimen is a persistent obstacle undermining the effectiveness of oral PrEP as an HIV prevention tool, particularly for adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNAIDS, 5,000 new HIV infections occur weekly among women and girls aged 15-24 years.
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