C-SPAN has a reputation for being boring, but when New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is testifying, she makes it her own personal highlight reel, and her taking a Big Pharma head to task for the price of an HIV drug yesterday definitely deserves a place on there.
First, the stage: Truvada is a PrEP drug that can prevent patients from contracting HIV if taken proactively. Right now, it’s pretty much the only pre-exposure prophylaxis drug available, making it a groundbreaking tool in the fight against HIV and AIDS. In the U.S., where it’s shielded by patents, it costs nearly $2,000. But, as Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, it only costs $8 in Australia, where there is a generic version available and the country has universal healthcare.
So please enjoy this clip of AOC directing righteous fury directly at the CEO of Gilead, the company that makes and sells Truvada.
As Daniel O’Day, the Gilead CEO noted, Truvada still has a patent in the U.S. His justification was that “We have to be sure that Americans get our medicines at a price that allows us to invest in research,” but the reason he was in front of the House Oversight Committee is because the CDC funded an enormous amount of the research that created Truvada and also owns a patent for the drug. But Gilead insists that its patent is the only valid one, and has reaped massive rewards to the tune of $3 billion in global revenue last year.
The government’s failing to adequately shield consumers from companies like Gilead is a continuing tragedy, but at least with Democrats in control of the House, every once in a while we’ll get to see a CEO sweat.