AOC Grills Pharma Exec Over Expensive HIV Drug

Truvada costs almost US$2,000 in the US, compared to US$8 in Australia.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioned Gilead’s CEO over the price of an HIV medicine reaching almost US$2,000 in America compared to US$8 in Australia.

Gilead Sciences Inc chairman and CEO Daniel O’Day told the US Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district that the current list price of Truvada was US$1,780 in the United States because the HIV prevention drug still had patent protection there, whereas generics were available in other countries.

“There’s no reason this should be 2,000 dollars a month,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a video on NowThis Election.

“People are dying because of it, and there’s no enforceable reason for it,” added the 29-year-old Democrat politician.

Dr Robert M. Grant, a professor of medicine at University of California, acknowledged that his research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, was built on earlier research work patented by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Anti-HIV medication Truvada is licensed for PrEP, which is a drug that uninfected people can take to prevent HIV infection if they face substantial risk of contracting the virus.

“Yes. My clinical trial was informed by CDC research in two ways. One, the CDC demonstrated that the pre-exposure dose was, added to the efficacy of PrEP.”

PrEP patient and advocate Dr Aaron Lord told the congressional hearing that the American public had invested US$50 million to develop PrEP and that Gilead relied on publicly funded trials to obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Yes, if you look at their supplementary new drug application, you’ll see that every sponsor of Truvada as PrEP was a non-Gilead sponsor,” he said.

Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that the American public paid to develop PrEP, financed clinical trials for Truvada, and funded patient assistance programmes.

“So I think it’s important that we notice here that 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, we refuse to enforce it.

“We own the intellectual, the core intellectual property for it, and, as a result, people are dying for no reason.”

O’Day said Truvada would be generically available in the US as of September next year.

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