U.S. sues drugmaker Gilead over patents on HIV prevention treatment

The patent infringement case against a major drug company, coming at a time of increasing political anger over drug prices, signals a shift in a relationship that typically has been collaborative. The San Francisco-based company has worked for years with the CDC to fight HIV, including providing free drugs for government experiments, as well as efforts to expand treatment of hepatitis C.

But the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services this week describes how, beginning in 2015, Gilead repeatedly refused to recognize CDC patents for an HIV prevention called Truvada for PrEP.

“Gilead has repeatedly refused to obtain a license from CDC to use the patented regimens,” the government said in its lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department in federal court in Delaware. “Meanwhile, Gilead has profited from research funded by hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Indeed, Gilead has reaped billions from PrEP . . . but has not paid any royalties to CDC.”

The government filed the unusual case as the Trump administration prepares an initiative to eradicate new cases of HIV and AIDS by 2030. Wider distribution of Truvada for PrEP is the linchpin of the plan.

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