U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th district Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez challenged a drug company CEO over the exorbitant cost of an HIV-prevention drug on Thursday.
Speaking to Daniel O’Day, CEO of biotech and drug company Gilead, Ocasio-Cortez pressed as to why HIV-prevention drug Truvada cost nearly $2,000/month in the US compared to just $8/month in Australia.
Stuttering slightly, O’Day responded: “Truvada still has patent protection in the United States and in the rest of the world it is generic.” He added that the drug will become generically available in September 2020.
The response incited a fiery one of Ocasio-Cortez’s own: “I think it’s important here that we notice that we the public, we the people, developed this drug. We paid for this drug, we lead and developed all the patents to create Prep and then that patent has been privatized despite the fact that the patent is owned by the public, who refused to enforce it.”
Truvada was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and through a $50 million federal grant to AIDS researchers in San Francisco. Although the government patented the prophylactic treatment in 2015, Gilead had been approved to sell the drug three years prior.
Gilead made $3 billion in global revenue from Truvada in 2018.