Apr 29, 2019
The drug treatment Truvada for PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by more than 99%. By blocking the spread of new infections, it could be used to end the HIV epidemic.
But over the years the number of new HIV infections has not been reduced, and remains about 40,000 per year.
With a treatment this effective, why is HIV still an epidemic? Because the Truvada treatment is not widely available to the population due to its astronomical cost. From its manufacturing cost of $6, Gilead Science has inflated the price of the drug to $1600- $2000 per month. As a result, in 2016 1.1 million people needed to be treated with the drug, but less than 10% received it.
Usually pharmaceutical companies say their high prices are due to large research and development costs. But the research for Truvada was almost fully financed by the U.S. government.
A team of researchers with the Centers for Disease Control received more than $50 million in Federal grants to develop this drug. It was patented by the U.S. government in 2015.
Since then, Gilead Science has been ignoring the government patent and selling the drug. But the government has never seriously challenged the patent violation. As a result, Gilead has a monopoly on the drug. Sales earned it $3 billion in 2018, and not one penny has gone back to the U.S. government!
Truvada is just one example of government-funded research going to help corporate profits. The Centers for Disease Control and National Institute of Health have patented more than 2500 “inventions” since 1976. All of these were created with U.S. tax dollars. Government officials freely admit they routinely license new drug formulas to private companies, which promptly market them to maximize their profit.
Utilizing existing medical science, the HIV epidemic could be stopped in its tracks. But in this society, profits for companies like Gilead come first. Meanwhile, people are dying, deprived of the treatment they need.