Department of Health and Human Services Sues PrEP Manufacturer Gilead for Patent Infringement

The U.S. government is suing Gilead, the manufacturer of HIV-prevention medications Truvada and Descovy, for patent infringement.

“Today, the…Department of Health and Human Services filed a complaint in federal district court against [Gilead] seeking damages for Gilead’s infringement of HHS patents related to [PrEP] for HIV prevention,” a press release issued by the department on Wednesday (November 6) reads. “Despite multiple attempts by HHS to license its patients, Gilead has refused.”

The complaint HHS filed claims that the pharmaceutical company “willfully and deliberatively induced infringement” of the department’s patents to profit from research funded by taxpayer dollars.

Because researchers from the CDC developed PrEP, the U.S. government owns four patents for the invention of the medication to protect this work and the investment made by taxpayers.

“PrEP is not Gilead’s invention, it’s the American taxpayer’s invention and because [the CDC] invented it and owns four patents protecting that invention, Gilead needs to in some way pay back the American taypayers,” PrEP4All co-founder James Krellenstein told Out. “That can be in monetary royalties—the Financial Times estimates that Gilead owes at least a billion dollars back to the American taxpayer—but it can also be other things. Like commitment to increase access and make sure PrEP is universally available.”

“HHS recognizes Gilead’s role in selling Truvada and Descovy to patients for prevention of HIV,” said HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II. “Communities have out these drugs to use in saving lives and reducing the spread of HIV. However, Gilead must respect the U.S. patent system, the groundbreaking work by CDC researchers, and the substantial taxpayer contributions to the development of these drugs. The complaint filed today seeks to ensure that they do.”

Gilead has been criticized for overcharging for Truvada, charging patients almost $2,000 a month for the medication when it other countries it costs as low as $8. According to Out, Gilead made $3 billion last year on the sale of Truvada alone.