Conference funders, Gilead Sciences, named and shamed for its “insatiable greed”
Yesterday, the 9th International AIDS Conference on HIV Science in Paris (IAS 2017), drew to a close, in style. The community address delivered by Othoman Mellouk, during the final ceremony, exposed one of the key conference sponsors, Gilead.
Mellouk, who is the Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines Lead at the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), opened his speech to loud applause when he reminded everyone that while Gilead is using the conference as a public relations exercise, “we all know that its pricing practices leave millions of people out of access to lifesaving treatment.”
The impassioned speech told how the pricing has “wrecked government budgets” and pushed people to extremes to access the drug, sofosbuvir, which treats hepatitis C. It can be sold for as much as $32,000 in France, for example, where the conference itself took place.
Mellouk said that “Gilead, presents itself as the responsible pharma company. The one that really cares. They give licenses, after all, to generic companies to supply drugs in the developing world.
But Gilead’s licenses are not about access – they are about denial.”
Not only are its licenses a “smokescreen” for the unfair monopolies they create, but Mellouk exposed that due to “insatiable greed” Gilead’s tactics include “violation of patient privacy…and the abuse of the patent system.”
Tenofovir/emtricitabine, is another drug branded by Gilead, which has been approved as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
“For the gay community, and other key populations too this is a life-saving development. For Gilead, it was an opportunity to file additional, evergreening patents and exploit our communities.”
Mellouk made three asks to Gilead, each were applauded in turn, clearly striking a chord with the audience. He urged Gilead to:
- “Drop your prices and stop excluding people from middle-income countries from accessing lifesaving drugs.
- Stop blocking local manufacturing and registration of generics of sofosbuvir and tenofovir/emtricitabine.
- We urge you to respect the initial duration of the patent expiring now. Stop pressuring patent offices worldwide to obtain abusive patents like you shamefully did in India.”
IAS did not initially post the recording as promptly as they have with other conference footage, but it is now available. Watch now.
Update (1 Aug). The video of the closing ceremony was taken down shortly after it was published. A few days later it is back up with a new link. We hope it will remain available in full, but we’ll be keeping the text version, above, available in case this link fails to work.
Earlier in the conference, Viiv, another conference sponsor and example of ‘Big Pharma’ was exposed when HIV treatment activists from around the world collectively blocked access to ViiV Healthcare’s promotional booth and stormed its presentation to physicians.