On Wednesday morning, June 8 th, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, zapped AIDS drug kingpin Gilead Sciences with an “only-in-California” AIDS drug pricing protest in the form of a rolling caravan during the annual Goldman Sachs Healthcare Investor Conference being held at the exclusive Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
The protest caravan featured a hearse, a double-deck bus and 40+ cars outfitted with “Gilead Greed Kills” banners and placards as well as a small plane towing a “Gilead Greed Kills” banner over the resort. The protest came about following a blistering LA Times article that exposed the pharmaceutical giant’s patent manipulation of its best-selling HIV drugs containing tenofovir.
The LA Times article details Gilead researchers’ early and promising clinical trials of TAF, a safer and more effective version of their existing HIV medication tenofovir. However, trials of the newer tenofovir compound were abruptly stopped by Gilead executives in 2004, a few years after they began, in order that Gilead could direct its R&D efforts toward “…other research.”
In a lawsuit filed earlier this year, AHF alleges that Gilead halted its early research of TAF in order to extend its patent on its existing HIV medication, which yielded billions of dollars in annual sales. While Gilead argues that the move was only to shift attention toward another type of HIV medicine, their lawyers also maintain that the company “had no duty to develop, test, seek approval of, or launch its new product on any particular timetable.” Meanwhile, HIV patients only had access to the more-harmful version of Gilead’s drug, which had damaging effects on their kidneys and bones.
In response to Gilead’s patent manipulation for higher profits, AHF is also asking Congress and the FDA to conduct a formal investigation of Gilead as well as increased scrutiny of the actions of pharmaceutical companies. AHF also is running a print ad in several LGBT news outlets across the country highlighting the issue.
To view some of the AHF’s Gilead protest photos, click here.