The California-based biopharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) is the world’s largest HIV medicine maker that develops and commercializes medicine for the treatment and prevention of life threatening diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), liver disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension, chronic angina, and influenza A & B.
The AIDS virus infects 50,000 people each year in the US. In 2012 Gilead’s anti-AIDS pill, Truvada, a combination of 2 Gilead drugs was approved by the FDA as the preventative medicine for HIV.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people that are having unprotected sex, people with HIV-infected partners, and people who use injection medicine to take the pill daily which will prevent infection 90% of the time. The preventive measure of using Truvada is called PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis. “It is important to note that those taking Truvada for PrEP may not take it for an entire year,” Gilead spokeswoman, Cara Miller says.
Jonathan Mermin, the Director of CDC National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention said “there’s no vaccine and cure in the near horizon. Prevention is key”. He calls the medicine a potential lifesaving tool and wants to promote the HIV drug. So far less than 10,000 people are using the drug when 500,000 people are eligible, which is disappointing since insurance usually covers the prescription. In the unlikely chance that insurance doesn’t cover the costs, Gilead will help patients who need the medicine, according to Cara Miller.
To implement this, health organizations are conducting programs to show the effectiveness of the prevention strategy. Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston and Newark, New Jersey are 4 cities that have federally qualified health centers with high HIV rates that will execute these pilot programs.
Truvada costs $15,000 a year in the US and has made more than $3.1 billion in sales in 2013. The problem is many patients and victims of the disease cannot financially afford the preventive medicine. Other oppositions arise such as the fear that the pill will cause a decrease in protected sex and lead to spreading other STDs.
The LA-based nonprofit organization, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, say they do not support the recommendation of Truvada for PrEP for this reason. Over a period of time, side effects include weakness of bones in healthy people and renal issues in people with diabetes or hypertension. According to studies, CDC’s recommendation are “very safe” and “most people have no side effects even after taking it daily for year.”