Friday, July 29, 2016

Drug maker Gilead the target of activists’ ire at AIDS conference

DURBAN — Chants of "Gilead kills" and "Shame shame" filled the air of the exhibition hall at the 21st International AIDS Conference as activists protested against the price of Gilead Sciences’ HIV and hepatitis drugs earlier on Wednesday.

The cost of Gilead’s hepatitis C drug Solvadi was in the spotlight because its high price tag puts it out of reach of all but the wealthiest patients.

While it is not very common in SA, hepatitis C is prevalent among injecting drug users and is widespread in many other middle-income countries.

A 12-week course of Solvadi costs $84,000 in the US. In SA it costs about R158,000 for the three-month course.

Gilead came under fire from the activists, including local lobbyists Section 27 and the Treatment Action Campaign, not only for the price of Solvadi, but also for tax avoidance.

The US-based pharmaceutical company moved some of its assets to Ireland in order to shift some US drug sales revenue offshore to benefit from lower tax rates, according to a report by Americans for Tax Fairness published last week.

By not repatriating its foreign profits, Gilead avoided nearly $10bn in taxes, the group said.

The activists also protested against what they said was Gilead’s patent abuse.

They said Gilead it was issuing voluntary licences for other companies to make its HIV drugs in countries in which it did not have patent protection.

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