ACT UP Activists Demand Pharma Giant Gilead Stop Blocking Access To HIV Prevention Drug

ACT UP Dublin, the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, gathered outside Dublin's Four Courts in protest.

Activists outside the Four courts holding protest signs against pharmaceutical giant Gilead

Activists from the group ACT UP Dublin gathered outside the Four Courts this morning in protest at the pharmaceutical giant Gilead blocking access to its anti-HIV medication, Truvada. The group demands that Gilead end its efforts to extend its expired patent and significantly drop the price where the patent is still in effect.

Gilead’s legal team were in the High Court for the first day of a trial on the validity of the Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) for Truvada. The original patent expired in 2017, but the disputed SPC would extend Gilead’s monopoly on Truvada until 2020 in Ireland.

ACT UP Dublin member Andrew Leavitt said: “Gilead has earned an international reputation for price gouging and dodging taxes. Here in Ireland, Gilead has done nothing but obstruct access to PrEP. They rebuffed HSE efforts to create a PrEP demonstration project in 2016, then refused to engage with the NCPE in the HSE’s pharmacoeconomic review process in 2017, forcing the Government to take exceptional measures by requesting a review from HIQA.”

Leavitt continued, “A victory in this suit might bring a windfall for Gilead, but it would be a disaster for Ireland’s HIV prevention efforts.”

While it is widely anticipated that the Irish court will find the SPC invalid, a ruling in Gilead’s favour could upend plans for provision of PrEP by the State. This follows mere days after a draft report was issued by HIQA (Health Information and Quality Authority) which said that PrEP is not only safe and effective, but also would be “cost effective” if provided by the public health service.

Gilead Sciences currently faces criticism in the US for using its patent on Truvada to charge exorbitant prices, with activists calling on the National Institutes of Health and the CDC to intervene.

Leavitt continued, “Gilead’s behaviour has been disgraceful. The high price Gilead demands for Truvada has delayed PrEP access across Europe, including here in Ireland, and continues to be a huge obstacle to access in the US. This is not how a responsible, community-minded company, especially one supposedly concerned about health, should act.”

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