Cork Pride Defends Controversial Gilead Sponsorship

The organisers of this year's Cork Pride festival have defended their controversial sponsorship from Gilead - a pharmaceutical giant which has tried to block patient access to generic HIV drugs.

A group of people at Cork Pride holding rainbow coloured balloons which spell out REBELS

With this weekend’s Cork Pride Parade taking place, The Green Party in Cork have called its organisers out for allowing pharmaceutical company Gilead to sponsor the event.

The US firm, which has a facility in Cork, are the makers of PrEP, a medication which significantly reduces the risk of HIV infection. The medication carries a price tag of €400 per month. Gilead’s involvement has left a sour taste as the company are continuing to litigate before the High Court to enforce its SPC (Supplementary Protection Certificates) in Ireland and force generic versions of their product off the market. 

The controversy began late last year when it was announced that more affordable generic versions of the drug would soon be available in Ireland, in one case the cost was up to 85 percent cheaper. Gilead sought an injunction to block the sale of the cheaper drugs, despite its patent on the drug running out in July 2017.

It is still not a settled matter. Gilead are not currently engaging with the HSE’s Health Technology Assessment process and continuing to litigate. If successful, this is a move which could not only cost the HSC millions but is also suggested as undermining efforts to bring down Ireland’s high rate of HIV diagnoses.

Rob O’Sullivan from The Cork Green Party’s national LGBT+ organisation said: “Gilead’s behaviour predominantly affects working class queer people in Ireland. They have made €14 billion from this drug globally and still they want to block access to more accessible versions of the drug from the LGBT community”.

Their statement continued, “Cork Pride’s acceptance of sponsorship from them – at this time, and whether they realise it or not – is an endorsement of their conduct. It says it’s OK, or just business as usual. Pride began as a protest. Pride is still a protest. Gilead’s business practices related to PrEP is something that should be protested, not endorsed or accepted. If Cork Pride genuinely represents the LGBT community in Cork, it should never accept sponsorship from them or any company whose conduct is contrary to the health, interests or ethics of the community.”

The Cork Pride organising committee has responded by saying they will not cancel their sponsorship from Gilead and that the interference of The Greens was “counterproductive and negative”. Spokesperson Kery Mullaly said “It is not in the spirit of what the Green Party is or should be about. Maybe they are trying to make themselves more relevant but perhaps they should be focusing on the positive things Cork Pride does”.

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