- Joshua Roberts/Reuters
- Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday confronted the CEO of the drug company Gilead over the high cost of an HIV-prevention drug.
- Ocasio-Cortez asked why the drug Truvada costs nearly $2,000 per month in the US compared to $8 in Australia.
- Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said that the current monthly list price ($1,780) is a product of the drug’s “patent protection” in the US, while a generic version of the drug is sold in other countries.
- The drug was developed by the US government with taxpayer funds, which Ocasio-Cortez zeroed in on as she rebuked the high cost of Truvada.
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Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on Thursday confronted a drug company CEO about the high cost of an HIV-prevention drug.
Speaking to Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day, Ocasio-Cortez asked why the drug Truvada for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which can help reduce the risk of contracting HIV via sex, cost nearly $2,000 per month in the US, versus $8 in Australia.
O’Day said that the current monthly list price ($1,780) is a product of the drug’s “patent protection” in the US, while a generic version of the drug is sold in other countries.
The Gilead CEO did not offer specifics on the price in Australia, but reports suggest the generic drug costs somewhere in the range of $5 to $30 in the country, depending on the person’s circumstances. He also said that the drug will be generically available in the US as of September 2020.
Ocasio-Cortez went on to slam the cost of the drug in the US, stating the “people are dying” because it’s not affordable enough.
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) May 16, 2019
Truvada was developed through work by Thomas Folks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as through $50 million in federal grant money to San Franciso-based AIDS researcher Robert Grant. The US government patented the treatment in 2015, but hasn’t seen a penny as Gilead has made billions off of it – including $3 billion in global sales last year alone, The Washington Post reported in March.
Gilead won approval to market Truvada in 2012 after successful clinical trials in humans, three years before the government patented the treatment.
Gilead contends the US government’s patent on the drug is invalid, and the government hasn’t seen any money from the drug company’s sales of Truvada. The drug company’s patent on the drug expires in 2021, however.
Meanwhile, the number of new HIV infections in the US per year is around 40,000, and the annual number of new diagnoses declined 9% from 2010 to 2016, according to the CDC.
Thursday’s hearing focused heavily on the patent dispute, which Ocasio-Cortez spoke passionately about in her exchange with O’Day.
“We the people developed this drug,” she said. “We paid for this drug. … There is no reason this should be $2,000 a month. People are dying because of it!”
In a tweet on the hearing later in the day, Ocasio-Cortez suggested the drug was more affordable in Australia because it has a universal health care system.