Daniel O’Day, CEO of Gilead Sciences, was called to testify before Congress after a Washington Post report showed the federal government held the patent on the HIV drug that Gilead made billions off of.
O’Day testified that the drug, Truvada, made the company $3 billion in revenue in 2018 globally. In the United States, the medication costs $1,780 a month, according to O’Day. But in Australia, the same medication costs $8 per month.
“Our well-supported view is that the U.S. 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,” said O’Day.
Gilead contends that the government’s patents are invalid. This is contested by an independent review by patent expert Christopher Morten, a fellow at Yale’s Global Health Justice Partnership. He found no evidence that the government’s patents lacked validity.
“These are public assets that were generated with public money that effectively are going to waste here,” he told the Washington Post.
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) May 16, 2019
Under questioning from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), O’Day explained this was a result of the patent protections in the United States that the medication lacks elsewhere in the world.
“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 privatized despite the fact that the patent is owned by the public. We refused to enforce it,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “There is no reason this should be $2,000 a month.”
Despite prescription drug prices being a rare bipartisan issue, with both President Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) railing against high prices, Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee seemed defensive of Gilead, focusing on research costs rather than drug prices.
Gilead’s exclusive rights to Truvada in the United States expire in September of 2020.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.