Gilead holding patent on an antiviral drug that shows promise for COVID-19 treatment

ACT UP NY is now lobbying the FDA who handed over a 7-year monopoly to Gilead for remdesivir, which could make COVID-19 treatment prohibitive.

Gilead COVID-19
Image: ACT UP NY/Housing Works

ACT UP NY has slammed a decision by the FDA to give market exclusivity for the drug Remdesivir to Gilead for seven years. Remdesivir is being used in COVID-19 clinical trials as it has been shown to be effective for COVID-19 patients.

Remdesivir was originally developed by Gilead to combat Ebola during the West African outbreak from 2013 to 2016. Its development was funded by US taxpayers to the tune of $79 million.

Gilead are also the makers of Truvada, the only drug currently approved for PrEP in the US. They enjoyed $3 billion in profits from Truvada PrEP sales in 2018.

Gilead’s prices prove prohibitive for many and federal officials have warned that the cost of PrEP is slowing its uptake.

ACT UP NY are now using their history of activism to bring awareness to how the Gilead monopoly has previously affected the availability of healthcare for those who need it and the impact this could have on the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Twitter, ACT UP NY said:

“Trump’s FDA just handed over a seven year monopoly for Gilead Sciences drug, remdesivir—a promising treatment for COVID-19 while $79 million of the funding came from U.S. taxpayer dollars.

“This is how pharma greed kills.”

Director of advocacy communications at Housing Works and a former ACT UP member, Jennifer Johnson Avril, tweeted a slogan in response to the Remdesivir monopoly held by Gilead:

“If I die of COVID-19 — forget burial, drop my body on the steps of Mar-A-Lago,”

The slogan is inspired by the infamous jacket worn by activist David Wojnarowicz reading, “If I die of AIDS — forget burial, just drop my body on the steps of the FDA.”

Housing Works and ACT UP NY quickly worked together to utilise the slogan and Blaine Metzgar designed a graphic with it emblazoned on a face mask.

“Yesterday, a friend posted that people he knew were losing people to COVID-19 and the government had blood on its hands. I immediately thought of David Wojnarowicz’s jacket and posted the line,” Avril told Out in a statement.

“The federal government has already killed some of us, we just haven’t seen the body count yet. I’m angry, we’re angry, and we’ve just begun to fight.”

Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida, is often called ‘the Winter White House’.

“[The usage of Mar-a-Lago] symbolises all of this administration’s corruption and sick values,” she said. “And it connects more strongly to Trump and his administration.”

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