House Committee on Oversight and Reform holds Hearing on Skyrocketing HIV Prevention Drug Prices


Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post

Patient Advocate Aaron Lord and Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day sworn in for the Committee of Oversight and Reform on Thursday.

Caroline Centeno, Reporter

On Thursday, May 16th, 2019, the Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing named “HIV Prevention Drug: Billions in Corporate Profits after Millions in Taxpayer Investments.The 116th Congress regarded the issue of health care and investigated skyrocketing prescription drug prices. Truvada for PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), is a daily pill that can help prevent the risk of contracting HIV. 

Chairman Cummings introduced the hearing stating that “Gilead, the company that now sells this drug, charges astronomical prices.” Since Truvada was approved in 2004, Gilead has increased the price of the drug to nearly $2000 and made upwards of $36 billion in revenue. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1.1 million people in the United States are at high risk of contracting HIV. However, because of the pill’s increasing price, only about 200,000 of at-risk Americans are getting the drug, 75% of which are white. Only a fraction of Hispanic and African American people in the U.S, which are currently considered the most at-risk, are receiving the life-saving drug. 

Ohio Representative, Jim Jordan, made the claim that “the right to reap the rewards of your inventions is so vital that our framers included it in the constitution,” citing the American system of incentives as the reason why Gilead is able to increase profits by raising drug price. This is paired with the notion that Gilead owns the drug’s intellectual property but fails to recognize that it is truly the American people that own that property. This is simply because much of the funding for research and development of Truvada came from investments by American taxpayers through the CDC and National Institutes of Health, according to Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

In response to the argument of patent incentives and profits, Ocasio-Cortez, stated, “in Australia, PrEP is $8 a month. In the United States, it’s almost $2000 a month because we have legislated a set of incentives and we have legislated a system that allows that to happen.” In her impassioned speech, she assured that “people’s lives are not commodities,” and that is why the price of medicine differs from the price of a cell phone.