Friday, September 13, 2019 - Gilead Science is being accused in a lawsuit of violating anti-trust laws and conspiring with drug makers Bristol-Meyers and Johnson & Johnson to keep the price of anti-HIV drugs artificially high. The three companies are said to have agreed to manufacture HIV drugs such as Gilead's Truvada using only certain patent-protected ingredients and to forgo using cheaper alternative ingredients that would have lowered the cost of Truvada and open the market to competitively priced generic alternatives. The reason behind the collision was to foster the companies' monopoly of Truvada and to keep the price artificially high. Truvada is a daily medication that costs around $20,000 per year and is covered under most health insurance plans. What is not covered, however, is the cost of the required pre and post-treatment doctor's visits that are required with a Truvada prescription to ensure that a patient is HIV negative before receiving treatment and afterward to monitor patients for Truvada's potential side effects of kidney damage and osteoporosis, which have spawned thousands of Truvada lawsuits.
In the lawsuit, CNBC writes that Gilead Sciences has a history of planning to keep their competition from eroding its market share. "Pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences engaged in a long-running scheme to block generic competition of its combination drug cocktails to treat HIV. The plaintiffs in the suit claim that Gilead's actions caused the cost of the life-saving treatment to rise." Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day has argued that the $20,000 annual price tag is necessary as it covers the expenses incurred in the research and development of other potentially life-saving medications. Spokespersons for the pharmaceutical industry argue that without the high price of successful drugs like Truvada innovation and incentives to develop new drugs as needed would be stifled. Companies from the United States develop about 60% of the world's new life-saving drugs under the US current economic system.
Gilead has also come under fire for failing to forewarn Truvada patients of the potentially life-threatening side effects of Truvada and for keeping Descovy, a much safer Truvada alternative drug off of the market. Gilead has waited until the Truvada patent was set to expire and has only recently applied for FDA approval for Descovy. Gilead has schemed to replace Truvada with Descovy to supply the millions of bottles of free drugs over the next 10 years for HIV prevention. Truvada can cause osteoporosis and kidney failure and the long-term negative health consequences of the drug are unknown.
Finally, Gilead Sciences patent for Truvada and Descovy is being challenged by those in the US Congress such as Congresswoman Alexandria Cortez and Alijah Cummings who feel that the patent for Truvada rightfully belongs to the US government since Truvada was discovered and developed by scientists that were funded with government grants.
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