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Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day challenged over patents on PrEP drug Truvada

Published on 17/05/19 at 10:42am
Image Credit: nrkbeta

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tore into Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day on Thursday, over the firm’s nearly $2,000 price tag on PrEP drug, Truvada, in the United States. Sold at a list price of $1,780 in the US, the drug costs just $8 in Australia.

“We the public, we the people, developed this drug. We paid for this drug. We led and developed all of the grounding patents to create PrEP and then that patent has been privatised, despite the fact that the patent is owned by the public, who refuse to enforce it. There is no reason it should cost $2000 a month, people are dying because of it, and there’s no enforceable reason for it. We own the core intellectual property for it,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

The Government argue Truvada was developed as part of a joint effort by the Gladstone Institute’s Dr Robert Grant and Dr Thomas Folks from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who received $50 million in federal funding for their research.

However Gilead argues that the Government’s patent is invalid. O’Day responded in saying: “Our well-supported view is that the US government does not hold valid patents on the use of Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), nor does it hold any patent for Truvada itself.”

The drug’s use as a preventative-HIV drug was first discovered at a CDC primate research lab in Atlanta. Gilead had however provided the free samples of the drug to the researchers at the CDC. The CDC's findings, which were published in a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, led to Gilead winning approval to market Truvada as a PrEP drug in 2012.

As of yet, the US government has failed to come to agreement with Gilead over royalties on sales of the PrEP drug. “With the amount of effort and time and taxpayer money that went into it, for CDC and Gilead not to come to an agreement, so the taxpayer could get some of that money, is really unconscionable,’’ said Dr Folks.

The US government subsequently refused to file an infringement suit on a CDC patent from 2015. The CDC did however launch a successful defence of its patent in Europe.

“This treatment was developed as a result of investment made by the American taxpayers,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings. “The problem is that Gilead, the company that now sells the drug, charges astronomical prices.”

The California firm argue their scientists had been researching the drug before the CDC filed its patent in 2006. “We have chosen not to challenge those [CDC] patents because we value our collaborative relationship with the agency,” O’Day said.

"I have no reason to believe that these patents are not valid and enforceable, and moreover, they seem to be infringed [by Gilead] by the use of Truvada for PrEP," Christopher Morten, a patent expert and fellow at Yale Law School said. “These are public assets that were generated with public money that effectively are going to waste here."

Later, commenting on a @PublicCitizen video titled “.@AOC to Gilead CEO: The list price [for Truvada for PrEP] is almost $2,000 in the US. Why is it $8 in Australia?” Ocasia-Cortez said “Spoiler: Because Australia has universal healthcare.”

Louis Goss

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