House Reps Are Asking Why PrEP’s So Expensive

House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez / Image via Wikimedia Commons

Government officials are wondering whether the increases in price for PrEP is because of an unannounced sweetheart deal between Gilead Sciences Inc. and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last month, the CDC announced an annual donation of more than 2 million bottles of PrEP. This was, assumedly, to make it easier to provide the drug at low costs or free for those of need. But now, government officials are wondering if it was a sign of some kind of backdoor dealings.

The Committee on Oversight and Reform, made up of Chairman Elijah Cummings, Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez, Ayanna S. Pressley, and Ro Khanna, released a letter to Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day on Wednesday. The Oversight Committee is requesting documents and emails between the CDC or any other federal agencies and drugmakers about the announced donation of Truvada. It also seeks documents and emails that cover discussions between the company and government health agencies/officials about any patents held by the government on Truvada.

The committee is “seeking to understand if the company’s donation of Truvada was in any way connected to patents that have been registered in the United States.”

“Gilead has taken the position that the government’s patents are not valid. We would like to understand whether these patents played any role in negotiations between the company and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and whether Gilead has otherwise engaged in negotiations with the U.S. regarding these patents,” the letter also states.

So far, Gilead has not officially responded to the email, but Gilead spokeswoman Sonia Choi told Roll Call that “Gilead will respond to the committee in a timely manner. The CDC donation is not related to patents.”

Related: Kamala Harris Introduced A Bill To Make PrEP Free For All Americans

In the U.S., Gilead currently charges roughly $2,000 per month for Truvada, which is used for pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. This price is alarming considering the stark contrast to prices abroad. In other countries, the prices can go as little as $210 a month, and that’s before health/medical insurance kicks in. Due to this suspicious pricing, Gilead has garnered ridicule from government officials and LGBTQ, AIDs, and health advocates alike.

Doctors Without Borders recently accused the organization of organizing a publicity stunt with last month’s announcement. In addition, the organization states that Gilead is not living up to its promise from last year.

Last September, Gilead stated that it would supply LAmB at a “non-profit” price of $16.25 a vial. But it has since continued to charge $45 per vial and full treatment ends up costing $1000.

“Some of these patients are affected by cryptococcal meningitis, for which LAmB is crucial for treatment. We have been forced to acquire it at an expensive rate because Gilead is not instructing its distributor Mylan to reduce costs despite making announcements to help HIV patients last year,” said Doctors Without Borders’ Regional Head Leena Menghaney to The Hindu Business Line.

PrEP is more than 92% effective in preventing new HIV infections, yet Gilead’s prices for the drug are rising by the year. It seems that Gilead is paying a pricey game with its drugs. Thankfully, health advocates and government officials are now closing in on the company and getting to the bottom of these astronomical prices.

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