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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cites bringing down price of PrEP as one of her proudest achievements during first term

Josh Milton January 7, 2021
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez channels Jesus Christ to argue for LGBT+ rights

House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Win McNamee/Getty)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has cited pressuring pharmaceutical giant Gilead to bring down the cost of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, as one of her biggest achievements in her first term in Congress.

The New York congressperson reflected on her career after her January 2019 nomination in a Twitter video.

“During committee hearings, my question lines helped pressure Big Pharma into bringing down the price of PrEP to prevent HIV transmission,” she said in the four-minute-long video, tucked between progressive policies such as the Green Deal.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cuts into Gilead Sciences for price-gouging

PrEP describes a strategy of preventing acquisition of HIV by taking a single daily antiretroviral pill known as Truvada, manufactured in the US by Gilead Sciences.

In May 2019, Ocasio-Cortez took aim at the drugmaker for the bloated price label it slaps onto PrEP during a hearing of the House of Representatives committee on oversight and reform.

She grilled the CEO of Gilead Sciences, Daniel O’Day, as part of a patent dispute which saw the federal government clash with the company.

Bottles of antiretroviral drug Truvada
Bottles of antiretroviral drug Truvada. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Both claim ownership of patents covering the use of the drugs, with the Department of Health and Human Services arguing in a lawsuit at the time that it is the taxpayer, not the pharmaceutical industry, that owns Truvada.

The drug, after all, secretary of health and human services Alex Azar sought to stress in a statement, was “the groundbreaking work by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the substantial taxpayer contributions to the development of these drugs.”

The government patented the treatment in 2015, but as Gilead netted approval to market Truvada in 2012 after clinical trials, it has raked in $3 billion in revenue all the while its pricing makes the life-saving pill inaccessible, HIV advocates say.

“The list price is almost $2,000 in the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez Ocasio-Cortez, who is serving as the representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, cuttingly asked.

“Why is it $8 in Australia?”

“We the people developed this drug. We paid for this drug,” she continued, “we led and developed all the ground patents to create PrEP and that patent has been privatised 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 because of it and there’s no enforceable reason for it.

“People are dying for no reason!”

Related topics: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, gilead sciences, HIV, PrEP

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