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AIDS charity lambasts “ethically challenged” Gilead over price hikes

Published on 11/01/18 at 10:06am
IMAGE: Wikipedia/Jeffrey Beall

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has strongly criticised Gilead prices increases across the board for its HIV and AIDS treatment, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada.

The biotech increased the prices for three treatments in total, Truvada, Genvoya and Descovy, by 6.9%. The charity argues that this decision is unjustifiable given that a core component of all treatments is tenofovir, a drug that’s patents expired in December of last year.

The AHF demanded that Gilead drop the prices across the products by 90%, to allow greater access to the treatments. The charity did not pull punches in its assessment of the company’s behaviour, stating: “Ethically challenged drug company has made billions off the drug since its initial FDA approval while it simultaneously sought to ‘evergreen’ and manipulate patent extension process. AHF renews call for 90% cut.”

Truvada has received a large amount of press due to the fact it can be taken as a preventative measure to prevent contracting HIV. In the UK, calls for PrEP to be made available for free on the NHS led to a court battle, which campaigners to gain access to the drug eventually won.

The issue is the cost of the treatment, which is £355 per month in the UK and $1,636 per month in the US. As it needs to be used continually to be effective, this can lead to high costs for those covering the expense.

Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said: “This is a lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment that they have already made billions off of and they are now trying to squeeze the well dry. Also, if Gilead is truly committed to providing and enhancing access to Truvada for use as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP to prevent HIV acquisition by uninfected individuals, it is unconscionable for them to also charge this steep price on a now generic medicine.”

The high cost has meant that uptake of the drug has so far been low globally, with only a dozen countries having government-backed programs to promote the use of the pill. As was seen in the UK, healthcare services are wary of financially supporting the drug and programs to encourage its use.

In the US, this has meant that of approximately 1.2 million people who would be appropriate to use Truvada, only 145,000 are actively receiving a prescription for the preventative.

Ben Hargreaves

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