HIV Activists Urge US Govt to Appeal Gilead Court Ruling

HIV activists want the US government to appeal Tuesday’s court ruling that pharmaceutical company Gilead did not infringe on patents held by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) related to two anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.

The US government had claimed $1 billion in patent violations in relation to the use of Gilead’s Truvada and Descovy for HIV prevention – called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The case is the conclusion of a lawsuit filed by the Trump administration in 2019, in which the federal government argued that Gilead had violated its collaboration with the CDC and patents the CDC had secured while the two bodies were working together.

Gilead had provided the CDC with its drugs for a trial to see whether they could be used to prevent, not just treat, HIV. The CDC had paid for the trials on macaque monkeys and acquired patents related to this research.

The CDC had then offered Gilead licenses on the patents in exchange for royalties on two drugs if they were marketed for PrEP.

However, Gilead refused and went on to market its drugs for PrEP, initially charging patients around $20,000 for a year’s supply of Truvada.

In addition, Gilead had counter-sued the federal government in 2020 for violating the terms of their PrEP collaboration, arguing that the CDC had sought the patents without notifying the company of its intention, as required by their agreement, and that these patents – on Gilead’s drugs – were thus invalid.

Gilead won that case last year, which undermined the federal government’s case.

However, the advocacy organization PrEP4All, said that, “if the jury’s verdict stands, it will not only perpetuate harm to the American people but also threaten to set a dangerous precedent, encouraging other drug companies to privatize and profit from publicly developed technology with impunity”.

“Taxpayers paid for CDC and NIH’s invention and development of HIV PrEP. CDC scientists patented their work. The government attempted, for years, to negotiate with Gilead a reasonable license to these patents.”

However, Gilead said in a statement that the court decision “confirms our longstanding belief that we have always had the rights to make Truvada and Descovy for PrEP available to all who need it”.

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