The HIV community has for long been neglected, abandoned and in some cases marginalised since it surfaced to the observation of the public in 1981.
It was initially misunderstood as a curse or something to do with gay men and lesbianism, which was why it was popularly called gay-related immune deficiency, gay man pneumonia, and gay-man cancer.
In this modern age and time, one would assume that we are past that stage of exploiting human suffering and desperation, but nothing can be further from the truth. I assume it is in human nature to be ruthless and I daresay, heartless.
Here is why—a recent five-count Truvada lawsuit was filed against a pharmaceutical giant called Gilead Sciences Inc for the purposeful exploitation and endangerment of human lives (both sick and non-sick people) in a bid to make a lot of money.
Details About The Lawsuit
A lawsuit was filed in the superior court in the state of California in the county of San Francisco. This lawsuit with case number CGC-19-575245 was filed in April of 2019. The litigation was a five-count charge with a complaint about damages. The counts were;
- STRICT PRODUCT LIABILITY
- BREACH OF EXPRESS WARRANTIES
- BREACH OF IMPLIED WARRANTIES
- FRAUD AND CONCEALMENT
All the above counts were levelled against a manufacturer, developer and seller of medical product and sciences called GILEAD SCIENCES INC. And the product in question was an HIV medication sold under different names like Viread, Truvada, Atripla, Stribild.
The case was—is a straightforward one which majorly involved corporation greed. The company, in this case, “Gilead” decided to withhold for more than a decade, a prodrug which was meant for the treatment of HIV that it knew was far more safe and more effective than the prodrug it had already put into the market.
Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a California based pharmaceutical company. Gilead got the rights to a drug called tenofovir in the mid-1990s and secured the exclusive license to synthesise any tenofovir based compound.
Beginning in 2001, Gilead manufactured and sold a prodrug form of tenofovir called TDF. Meanwhile, it had developed another prodrug form of tenofovir called TAF, which it knew to be less toxic to the kidneys, liver, teeth and bones.
When Gilead made TAF known to physicians in 2015, It touted the drug as a “new” and “novel” prodrug formula that was much safer for patients. However, there was nothing new about it.
It was the same drug that was kept on the shelf in development since at least the year 2000. As a consequence, hundreds of thousands of HIV-infected patients and patients taking the drug as a preventive measure were all exposed to a more toxic form of the drug for over a decade.
These patients, including plaintiffs, unwittingly and needlessly suffered permanent, debilitating, and sometimes fatal kidney and bone damage.
Gilead’s TDF drugs were developed from 1990-2012. Throughout the varying period of development of these TDF drugs, Gilead knew that tenofovir in the prodrug form of TDF was extremely toxic to patients kidneys, teeth and bones.
During the time it developed TDF, Gilead had invested, discovered, researched and developed a safer, more effective tenofovir “prodrug” called “Tenofovir Alafenamide Fumarate” (TAF) that reduced human toxicity and the risk of resulting injury to the kidneys, bones, and/ or teeth as compared to TDF.
However, despite already having developed a safer form of tenofovir, Gilead intentionally, knowingly, wilfully and carelessly marketed first TDF-based medication, Truvada and withheld the safer TAF-based formulations from the market until November 2015, resulting in injuries to the plaintiffs alleged.
In so doing, Gilead was able to maximise its profits and fully exploit its own patents on its TDF-based medications for over ten years.
At the time Gilead reached these conclusions regarding TDF, It also determined that TAF was a more viable prodrug form of tenofovir that could be administered orally to introduce the same amount of active tenofovir into the body at one-tenth (0.1) of the dose of TDF and achieve the same antiretroviral effectiveness as TDF at only one-thousandth (0.001) of the dose.
Stated differently, Gilead found that because of the difference in bioavailability between TDF and TAF, patients needed approximately 12 times more TDF (300-milligram dose) than (25-milligram dose) in order to achieve the same therapeutic effect on viral replication.
Given the differences in effective dosage between TDF and TAF, Gilead knew that TAF was associated with less toxicity and fewer side effects because the oral administration of TAF resulted in significantly lower concentrations of active tenofovir in the kidneys, which in turn decreased the risk of renal injuries, as well as bone and tooth loss, when compared to TDF.
The Choice To Promote TDF Over TAF by Gilead
Armed with significant knowledge of TDF, TAF and the differences between the two, as well as the exclusive rights to tenofovir, Gilead moved from the development and study of these antiretroviral compounds to the monetisation of medications that would be prescribed to patients with HIV/AIDS.
In other to maximise its profits and stranglehold on tenofovir-based antiretroviral medications, Gilead intentionally, knowingly devised a marketing scheme whereby it abandoned the immediate approval, manufacture and sale of TAF in favour of the less effective, less safe TDF.
Gilead knew that selling it safer TAF compound first, TDF will never be sold. Conversely, by selling TDF based drugs first, Gilead could reap the benefits of those sales and then, later, market its safer TAF compound and effectively monetise both drugs.
It is obvious that we live in a world where people will keep taking advantage of other people that are supposedly indisposed to fight their battles.
But the beautiful thing about living in this contemporary age and time is that there are now legal professionals who have perfected their craft in advocating for the less privileged, marginalised, and helpless citizens in getting the justice due them.
So if you do find yourself in such exploited situation, just remember you have a voice that can be heard if you so wish.