Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) blasted Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day on Thursday, calling him out for charging nearly $2,000 a month for an HIV prevention medicine that costs $8 in Australia.
During an exchange on the House floor, Ocasio-Cortez showed the CEO that she did not come to play games, focusing her attention on Truvada (also known as PrEP), a medication that significantly reduces the risk of infection to HIV.
“Is it true that Gilead made $3 billion in profits from the sales of Truvada in 2018?” the congresswoman asked almost immediately into her questioning of O’Day, prompting him to clarify that it was “$3 billion in revenue.”
“The current list price is $2,000 a month in the United States, correct?” she asked regarding the drug.
“The current list price is $1,780 in the United States,” O’Day responded.
“Why is it $8 in Australia?” Ocasio-Cortez fired back as she noted the extreme price difference of the medicine between the two countries — which is exactly 222.5 times more expensive in the U.S.
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We the people developed this drug. We paid for this drug. Despite the fact that the patent is owned by the public, we refuse to enforce it. There is no reason this should be $2,000 a month. People are dying for no reason.
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) May 16, 2019
“Truvada still has patent protection in the United States, and in the rest of the world, it is generic,” the CEO responded, adding that it “will be generically available in the United States as of September 2020.”
This response did not please Ocasio-Cortez, as the congresswoman explained why this price hike should have never been implemented in the first place:
“I think it’s important that we notice here that we the public, we the people, developed this drug, we paid for this drug, we led and developed all of the grounding patents to create PrEP, and then that patent has been privatized despite the fact that the patent is owned by the public, we refused to enforce it.”
“There’s no reason this should be $2,000 a month,” she continued to emphasize. “People are dying because of it, and there’s no enforceable reason for it.”