In an unconscionable move amidst the unfolding global pandemic, Gilead Sciences, Inc. is using publicly funded research for an exclusive ‘orphan drug’ monopoly designation on a possible COVID-19 treatment
Research on remdesivir was financed by the CDC, NIH and the U.S. Army, among other global public health research agencies; AHF says “Gilead is socializing the risk while privatizing the profits”
WASHINGTON (March 25, 2020) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today is calling on Gilead Sciences Inc., one of the largest manufacturers of HIV/AIDS drugs, to immediately abandon its claim for “orphan drug” designation for remdesivir, an antiviral drug thought to have some promise in the treatment of COVID-19.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Gilead’s application for remdesivir to be designated an “orphan drug” on March 23rd. Such a designation is supposed to be used only for diseases which affect a small population with a “rare” disease. COVID-19 affects millions of people and tragically is certainly not a “rare” disease. Yet Gilead’s tactics, thanks to the FDA action, will make one of the richest companies in the world eligible for special tax breaks and give it seven years of market exclusivity – a legal monopoly preventing any generic competition.
“Once again, Gilead—long a calculating and cold-hearted profiteer off the AIDS epidemic—is socializing the risk while privatizing the profits with its rapacious, but unsurprising conduct using taxpayer financed research to gain an exclusive monopoly on a treatment for COVID-19,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AHF. “Gilead Sciences has no shame. AHF today joins many other activist groups in demanding that Gilead immediately reverse course and renounce its claim to orphan drug designation privileges for remdesivir.”
The research that produced remdesivir was financed by grants from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Army, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) among other global public health research agencies.
In 1955, when the world was confronted with the frightening polio virus epidemic, Jonas Salk announced he had discovered a safe and effective vaccine. When asked why he didn’t patent it, his reply was, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” Unfortunately, Dr. Salk’s generous humanity doesn’t exist at Gilead.
AHF is also urging the FDA to reconsider and rescind the orphan drug designation should Gilead fail to abandon its claim on remdesivir.
Gilead earned over $18 billion in net profit in 2015; in 2018, its net was $5.5 billion.