Hilliard & Shadowen, LLP Report Prominent AIDS Activists Join Lawsuit Challenging Anticompetitive Practices By Gilead And Other Companies
AUSTIN, Texas, May 14, 2019 /PRNewswire/ --Today, AIDS activists Gregg Gonsalves, Brenda Goodrow, Andrew Spieldenner, Peter Staley, Robert Vázquez, and Jason Walker joined with other consumers in filing an antitrust complaint in federal court in San Francisco against some of the nation's largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, including Gilead Sciences, Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, and Johnson & Johnson, Inc.'s subsidiary Janssen R&D Ireland. The case is Peter Staley, et al. v. Gilead Sciences, Inc., et al., No. 3:19-cv-02573, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
The Complaint alleges that the manufacturers used anticompetitive tactics to keep prices artificially high on some of the most important and widely used medicines for the treatment and prevention of the HIV virus, including Truvada, Descovy, Atripla, Genvoya, and Odefsey (others include Viread, Emtriva, Complera, Stribild, Vemlidy, Reyataz, Evotaz, Prezista, Prezcobix, Edurant, Symtuza, and Tybost).
The Complaint asserts that the manufacturers agreed not to make important fixed-dose-combination drugs (at least two active pharmaceutical ingredients in a single pill) with generic versions of the components. The result, alleges the Complaint, is that a fixed-dose-combination drug like Gilead's Complera sells for $35,000 for a yearly course of treatment; a version of that drug using generic components together with Janssen's still-on-patent rilpivirine would sell for no more than half that amount. The Complaint alleges that the agreement between Janssen and Gilead (whose components are now available as generics) prohibits Janssen from making that generic-containing version of the drug or from licensing rilpivirine to generic manufacturers that would make it.
The Complaint alleges that the defendants' "no-generics" restraints cover more than 75% of all sales of NRTIs (the "backbone" drugs in HIV cocktails) in the United States, more than 50% of all sales of "core agents" (e.g., protease inhibitors, integrase inhibitors), and more than 75% of all sales of "booster" drugs that make some core agents more potent and longer-lasting. The Complaint alleges that the defendants used these pervasive no-generics restraints to keep their HIV-drug prices at the sky-high $35,000-per-year level even though three principal NRTIs are now available as generics.
Gonsalves, Spieldenner, Staley, and Vázquez are veterans of AIDS activism. Gonsalves, Staley, and Vázquez were prominent members of ACT UP, and Gonsalves and Staley went on to co-found the Treatment Action Group (TAG). In the early 1990s, Spieldenner joined the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention, one of the earliest groups to advocate for gay and bisexual men of color. Goodrow and Walker are younger activists committed to finally ending the AIDS pandemic. Goodrow, 23, was born with HIV and is a policy fellow with the Positive Women's Network. Walker, 32, is a community organizer for HIV/AIDS campaigns at VOCAL-NY.
These prominent members of the AIDS community see today's lawsuit as part of the next evolution of activism aimed at widening access to affordable HIV medicines, both in the United States and throughout the world.
Brenda Goodrow said, "The anticompetitive actions alleged in this case are shocking and help explain why the prices we pay for our antiviral pills just keep going up and up. This gross profiteering explains why less than half of people living with HIV in the U.S. are virally suppressed, one of the lowest rates among the world's high-income countries."
Jason Walker said, "The Complaint alleges that the no-generics restraints crafted by Gilead and its co-conspirators have had a devastating effect on innovation. It identifies 28 specific fixed-dose-combination products that could be made available to those living with HIV which these restraints have blocked from the market, resulting in astronomically high prices and stifled innovation. Ultimately, that creates access issues, especially for people of color. The alleged actions of these companies have been morally reprehensible."
Lead plaintiff Peter Staley said, "ACT UP successfully fought for a dramatically lower price on AZT, the first AIDS drug, resulting in far lower prices on the next ten drugs that came to market. Now Gilead and its co-conspirators have turned back the clock to monopolistic practices and pricing. We will not let this stand."
Media Contact: Peter Staley: StaleyVGilead@gmail.com
About Gregg S. Gonsalves Ph.D.: Gonsalves was a prominent member of ACT UP and a co-founder, with Staley and others, of the Treatment Action Group. His activism was prominently featured in How to Survive a Plague. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health, an Associate Professor (Adjunct) at the Yale Law School and a co-director of the Yale Law School/Yale School of Public Health Global Health Justice Partnership. He is a 2018 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellowship. He is participating in this lawsuit as an individual and not as a representative of any of the organizations with which he is now, or was previously, associated.
About Brenda Goodrow: Goodrow is new to activism but not to HIV. She was born HIV positive in 1996 and kept her HIV status a secret until the age of 21 when she recognized the power a personal story can have in the ongoing fight to de-stigmatize HIV. Since then, she has interned with The Sero Project, has partnered with the CDC on various Act Against AIDS initiatives including the Let's Stop HIV Together anti-stigma campaign, and is an ambassador for the Cambridge, MA-based non-profit Next Step. Currently, she is a policy fellow with the Positive Women's Network - USA. She is participating in this lawsuit as an individual and not as a representative of any of the organizations with which she is now, or was previously, associated.
About Andrew Spieldenner, Ph.D.: Spieldenner has been an HIV activist primarily in communities of gay men of color since the early 1990s. He coordinates the U.S. implementation of the Stigma Index for the Global Network of People with HIV/AIDS/North America and serves as vice-chair of the U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus. He currently represents Civil Society as a North American Delegate to UNAIDS, the UN Joint Programme on HIV. He has held positions at the Black AIDS Institute, the National Association of People with AIDS, and the Latino Commission on AIDS. He is an Assistant Professor of Health Communication at California State University-San Marcos. He is participating in this lawsuit as an individual and not as a representative of any of the organizations with which he is now, or was previously, associated.
About Peter Staley: Beginning in the 1980s, Staley was a prominent member of ACT UP, and later co-founded the Treatment Action Group. He served on the board of amfAR (the Foundation for AIDS Research) and was appointed by President Clinton to the National Task Force on AIDS Drug Development. More recently, he was appointed by Governor Cuomo to New York State's Ending the Epidemic Task Force and was a resident fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics. His activism is featured prominently in the documentary How to Survive a Plague. He is participating in this lawsuit as an individual and not as a representative of any of the organizations with which he is now, or was previously, associated.
About Robert J. Vázquez: Vázquez began his AIDS activism when his partner was diagnosed with Kaposi's sarcoma in 1981. As a member of ACT UP, he was At-Large Representative and one of the founders of the Majority Action Committee, which was the group's people of color caucus. Since that time, he has been an AIDS activist, AIDS treatment advocate and educator, and a community educator and organizer. He has worked for various AIDS organizations including New York's Minority Task Force on AIDS and the Minority AIDS Project of Philadelphia. He has served on the AIDS Clinical Trial Group and the first HIV vaccine working group of the National Institutes of Health. He is a member of Gran Fury, the AIDS activist/artist collective. He is participating in this lawsuit as an individual and not as a representative of any of the organizations with which he is now, or was previously, associated.
About Jason L. Walker: Walker is the HIV/AIDS Campaign Coordinator at VOCAL New York where he builds political power among low-income communities of color, particularly those living with HIV and LGBTQ youth. He has won key legislation that has assisted more than 15,000 low-income people living to access housing. He is also the co-creator of VOCAL's first youth organizing project, Queerocracy. His success at advancing an array of social justice issues has earned him numerous recognitions from POZ Magazine, the National Black Justice Coalition, PFAW, and most recently City & State New York as their 2018 LGBT Leaders on the Rise. He is participating in this lawsuit as an individual and not as a representative of any of the organizations with which he is now, or was previously, associated.
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