(Washington, DC)—During hearings today of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform investigating Gilead’s excessive pricing of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP, a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine, known by the brand name Truvada), Health GAP and other activists, researchers, and lawmakers called for urgent action to break Gilead’s monopoly on tenofovir+emtricitabine, given the grave harm to the HIV response caused by lack of access to PrEP among gay men, transgender people, people of color, and others at highest risk of HIV infection in the U.S. Health GAP’s testimony is available here.
Gilead has set the price of PrEP at about $2,000 per month in the U.S., while generic versions available outside the U.S. are sold for as little as $6 per month. Gilead made $3 billion in sales from the drug in 2018; however, the company spent almost nothing to research PrEP and bring it to market. Taxpayers funded most the clinical research that was needed to prove effectiveness.
Only about 167,000 people in the U.S. are currently taking PrEP, just 10% of those it is estimated could benefit. When taken as directed, PrEP is highly effective at preventing someone from becoming HIV-positive and is the only prevention tool that does not require partner consent or cooperation.
“PrEP should be considered a public good. The patent should be released to enable cost cutting generic competition—now. Profiteering by Gilead is harming communities, and undermining the response to HIV,” said Emily Sanderson, Health GAP National Organizer. Sanderson was part of a disruption of Gilead’s latest annual shareholder meeting on May 8, 2019 in San Francisco, where she confronted Gilead’s CEO, Daniel O’Day. “We call on the National Institutes of Health to break the stranglehold that Gilead has on PrEP in the U.S., or Gilead should release its patents—immediately.”
During the 2019 State of the Union Address, President Trump announced a $291 million HIV initiative that will rely heavily on PrEP. Activists point out that Gilead’s excessive price means the program will be a massive giveaway to Gilead, and will tie the hands of community groups starved for resources to scale up effective prevention and treatment programs, particularly in southern states, and among gay men, people of color, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers, and other communities made vulnerable by stigma, discrimination, racism or criminalization. The new initiative is directed by Health and Human Services Secretary Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive. “The U.S. government is shirking its obligation to act in the interests of public health,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP. “This administration is only interested in lining Gilead’s pockets.”
Health GAP is an international advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to affordable life sustaining medicines. Our team pairs pragmatic policy work with audacious grassroots action to win equitable access to treatment, care and prevention for people living with and affected by HIV worldwide. We are dedicated to eliminating barriers to universal access to affordable life sustaining medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS as key to a comprehensive strategy to confront and ultimately stop the AIDS pandemic. We believe that the human right to life and to health must prevail over the pharmaceutical industry’s excessive profits and expanding patent rights.