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A Big Donation Meant to Fight HIV, With 'Mixed' Reaction

Gilead Sciences will donate Truvada, but critics say they should cut price for everyone instead
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2019 11:24 AM CDT
In this May 10, 2012, file photo, a doctor holds Truvada pills at her office in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

(Newser) – On Thursday, President Trump tweeted the news: An announcement from Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar that Gilead Sciences, manufacturer of the only approved HIV-preventing drug, would donate enough Truvada to treat 200,000 patients each year through at least 2025, and possibly though 2030. Azar noted the initiative would provide the once-daily pill—a regimen called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP—to uninsured people at risk for HIV, especially in "priority areas." The cost of a year's worth of Truvada is about $20,000 in the US. "Securing this commitment is a major step in the Trump administration's efforts to use the prevention and treatment tools we have to end the HIV epidemic in America by 2030," Azar said, per the New York Times. Both the Times and Stat News, however, note "mixed" reaction.

"This is a very significant development that will go a long way in helping prevent HIV," says the AIDS Institute's Carl Schmid, also co-chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. But HIV activists say the Gilead donation will serve just 20% of the people who need it, and that significantly cutting the price of Truvada—and its eventual replacement, Descovy—would help more people across the board. Gilead has also filed suit against companies that tried to offer cheaper generic versions of Truvada in the US, all with secret settlements. "Let's call a spade a spade," an infectious-diseases doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital tells the Times. “The real cost of Truvada is about $60 a year. If you really wanted to cover everybody, you'd cut the price to everyone." (Read more HIV stories.)

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