The newest and youngest representatives in Congress have a plan. In case anyone thinks they’re just showboating, they aren’t exactly Jim Jordan or Matt Gaetz at a hearing about Trump’s obstruction of justice. There’s far more than just a performance happening.
— The Last Word (@TheLastWord) May 17, 2019
Friday afternoon, those representatives implemented that plan once again. The idea is that if these corporate thieves who take advantage of the most vulnerable among us, including the poor and the sick are brought in front of Congress, with C-SPAN cameras broadcasting to the entire country, and are shamed badly enough, it will hurt their bottom line. The less people are willing to patronize their companies, the more money they lose.
Such was the case with Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day. His company sells Truvada, a drug that prevents HIV, and sells it in Australia for $8 a pill but in the United States for $800, even though the U.S. taxpayer funded the research and development of the drug. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, began the public shaming.
‘How can Gilead do this? This treatment was developed as a result of investment made by the American taxpayers…the problem is that Gilead, the company that now sells the drug, charges astronomical prices…How can our system allow a company to take a drug treatment that was developed with taxpayer funds and abuse its monopoly to charge such astronomical prices?’
Great news today: My Administration just secured a historic donation of HIV prevention drugs from Gilead to help expand access to PrEP for the uninsured and those at risk. Will help us achieve our goal of ending the HIV epidemic in America! https://t.co/wux5QasWgW
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2019
Later, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), took her turn grilling the CEO. Ocasio-Cortez has become both very good at and very comfortable with this process, and O’Day was quickly in the hot seat.
‘The current list price is $2,000 a month in the United States, correct? Why is it $8 in Australia? There’s no reason this should be $2,000 a month. People are dying because of it and there’s no enforceable reason for it.’
Now do Sovaldi – curative for hepatitis C 99% of the time and well tolerated. Not developed by Gilead, they bought the startup that developed it for some millions of dollars. Costs ~$200-300 for a treatment course. How much do they charge? $80,000. They didn't even invent it.
— Mark Hoofnagle (@MarkHoofnagle) May 16, 2019
O’Day argued that it isn’t greed that drives up the price of Truvada in the U.S., but the many restrictive government regulations placed on them. It’s the lack of patent protections to blame. After all, Gilead has patent protections on Truvada elsewhere in the world, so they’re paying the price for a generic form of the drug. A generic will soon be available in the U.S.
Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t impressed, especially since Gilead has made billions of dollars off sales of the drug. The New York representative was quick to remind O’Day exactly who funded his billion-dollar baby.
‘We the people developed this drug!’
For full video of the exchange, see below:
Featured image screenshot via YouTube