IN SENATE LETTER, ACTIVISTS CALL FOR LOW PRICED HEPATITIS C CURE TO END THE NATIONAL EPIDEMIC
NEW YORK CITY – AUGUST 13, 2014 – Today ACT UP New York publicly challenged the U.S. Senate Finance Committee to negotiate with Gilead to reduce Sovaldi’s $1000 per pill price by 90% or more, a reduction that would save billions of dollars in U.S. health care spending, and could save hundreds of thousands more American lives, setting the groundwork for national and global eradication of hepatitis C.
Even before Gilead reported making $5.8 billion in sales on Sovaldi in just the first six months of 2014, activists, health policy experts and government officials had sharpened their criticism of the pharmaceutical company, which had previously had a relatively good reputation in the HIV community. The process by which Gilead arrived at a price for its hepatitis C drug is controversial, particularly because Gilead acquired the drug through the $11 billion purchase of the company Pharmasset, which had priced the drug significantly lower.
In ACT UP’s letter to the Senate Finance Committee, the group provided an analysis of Gilead’s price inflation and proposed two additional methods by which the federal government can break Gilead’s monopoly on the drug. First, the Senate can initiate a patent buyout, which can be justified on the basis that this patent would be more valuable to society if the product were available at a reasonable price. Alternatively, if Gilead does not accept the patent buyout, ACT UP demands that Congress waive Gilead’s patent on sofosbuvir and have it produced and sold at a lower price using the “government use” statute. A patent waiver is not without precedent. In 2001, during the bio- terrorist Anthrax attacks then Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson threatened to seek a patent waiver for the antibiotic Cipro patent to allow production of a generic version if German owner Bayer did not lower its price.
The activist group echoed questions posed by the Senate’s own letter to Gilead’s CEO John C. Martin, and called Gilead’s current pricing of Sovaldi deeply unethical. “Gilead’s pricing of its hepatitis C cure allows the disease to proliferate by pricing out millions of people that need it, thus delaying the end of a devastating epidemic,” stated the ACT UP letter. “What good is a cure regimen that costs an estimated $102 to produce if it takes decades to implement nationwide due to high prices?”
About ACT UP: Founded in 1987, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), is a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis. ACT UP meets every Monday night in New York City at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street off 7th Ave.