In São Paulo, on 31 October 2017, activists from around the world held a protest at the headquarters of US pharmacist, Gilead Sciences.
The demonstration was to denounce Gilead’s actions, which block access to essential medicines, delaying the cure or causing the death of people with treatable diseases, not just in Brazil but around the world. While abuses of the patent system continue by players such as Gilead, it is preventing universal access to health becoming a reality.
The event brought together activists from Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay, India, the US and Portugal who were in the city for the World Hepatitis Summit 2017. The World Summit is working towards a global health strategy.
Demonstrators protested under the banner of: ‘Gilead, Your Patents Kill’, denouncing Gilead and also encouraging countries to use legitimate flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement, such as compulsory licenses.
Arair Azambuja, President of the Brazilian Movement for the Fight against Viral Hepatitis, said he sees Gilead as a “middleman”. He explains: “They’re the one that enters in the middle of a process to raise the price. It did not invent sofobuvir (hepatitis C drug), it just bought it and it is increasing the price”. Several other speeches took place while some people lay on the floor, their bodies were outlined with red ribbon, symbolizing the victims, for whom medicines were out of reach.
”We want the Brazilian government to issue a compulsory license, because these vultures have already earned more than $50 billion in the trade of our health and our lives and this is intolerable”, said Jorge Beloqui, representative of the Brazilian Interdisciplinary Association of Aids (ABIA), Life Incentive Group, and the National Network of People Living with HIV.
The world against Gilead
“Medicines are inaccessible for people on average wages, and even the public budget faces challenges in acquiring and distributing medicines. They are out of reach and people are dying”, warned Lorena Di Giano, coordinator of the Latin American Network for Access to Medicines (RedLam) and Executive Director of our partner organization in Argentina.
In Portugal, although there is an agreement between the government and Gilead to acquire sofosbuvir at reasonable value with access for all persons diagnosed, the policymaker of the Activists Group of Treatment (GAT), Daniel Simões, points out that the absolute value still very high, especially considering its low cost of production. “Price is the result of pure speculation and industry greed. We need more demonstrations like this. It is unreasonable for people to continue dying of a curable disease”, he states.