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Gilead Will Donate 200,000 Bottles of Truvada a Year to US Government

Gilead Truvada PrEP

This is a result of talks between Gilead and the federal government.

Pharmaceutical company Gilead, the makers of Truvada, will donate enough of the drug to the United States to supply 200,000 patients a year with a monthly prescription, the New York Times reports. The move comes only a few hours after Gilead announced to investors that it would allow another manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceuticals, to produce a generic version of the drug beginning in September 2020.

The donation is the result of discussions between the federal government and Gilead, according to the Times. The deal will last until at least 2025, but could extend through 2030. Gilead's donation will likely be a part of Trump's Ending the Epidemic plan to address the United States HIV/AIDS epidemic, which he announced in his 2019 State of the Union.

"Securing this commitment is a major step in the Trump administration's efforts to use the prevention and treatment tools we have to end the H.I.V. epidemic in America by 2030," Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar said.

One Massachusetts doctor, Rochelle P. Walensky, told the Times that the deal was a "noble effort," but added that "it covers less than 20 percent of the people who need it."

While they would supply pills for about 200,000 people a year, the CDC has determined that the number of those who need to be on the drug in order to lower the number of annual infections is much higher.

Walensky also said that this tactic of giving it away for free is much less effective than an overall price reduction for everyone who needs to access the drug.

"Let's call a spade a spade," she said. Walensky pointed out that the cost of manufacturing Truvada is only about $60 a year. "If you really wanted to cover everybody, you'd cut the price to everyone."

Walensky added that this could be a back-door tactic to grow the market for Descovy, a new HIV prevention pill from Gilead that contains a new version of tenofovir, one of the two drugs in Truvada. Gilead submitted a new drug application for Descovy's approval to the Food and Drug Administration in April. The price of Descovy will be very similar to the current price of Truvada, between $1,600 and $2,000 a month.

"If I put on my cynical hat, I think this is the way they make sure they grow the market for Descovy," she added. "It will promote the idea that Descovy is better -- and I'm not sure that's a dialogue we want to present."

The move, according to AIDS activist and founder of PrEP4All Peter Staley, will end up costing Gilead less than $10 million a year. The company earned over $3 billion from Truvada in 2018 alone, even though taxpayers paid for the development of the drug as pre-exposure prophylaxis. Gilead has not shared any of those profits with the government to date.

In late April, the United States Justice Department announced that it would be investigating Gilead's profits off Truvada after seven senators, including Bernie Sanders and Tammy Baldwin, sent a letter to secretary Azar alerting them to the Gilead's massive profits and asking them to take action.

Staley noted that it is unclear whether this latest development is a result of the federal government's investigation.

RELATED | Gilead Will Allow Generic Truvada to Hit US Market Next Year

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