"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Friday, May 17, 2019

Today in Disgusting People: Drug Wars

Not the kind you might think. There are hearings in the House Oversight Committee on drug prices. They got a little heated. As a lead-in, get this statement from the CEO of Gilead:

“We have taken the disease from a death sentence to a manageable clinical condition, but we’re not done yet,” Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day told committee members. “We have to be sure that Americans get our medicines at a price that allows us to invest in research.’’

The specific topic was Truvada, the key component of PReP, the most effective AIDS prevention yet discovered. It costs, according to the article, between $1600 and $2000 a month in the U.S. And the kicker is, Gilead didn't develop the drug:

Thomas Folks spent years in his U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab developing a treatment to block deadly HIV in monkeys. Then San Francisco AIDS researcher Robert Grant, using $50 million in federal grants, proved the treatment worked in people who engaged in risky sex.

Their work — almost fully funded by U.S. taxpayers — created a new use for an older prescription drug called Truvada: preventing HIV infection. But the U.S. government, which patented the treatment in 2015, is not receiving a penny for that use of the drug from Gilead Sciences, ­Truvada’s maker, which earned $3 billion in Truvada sales last year.

The divine AOC wasn't having his bullshit:

It's worth noting, regarding O'Day's explanation of the price difference, that Gilead has reportedly stymied efforts to bring out a generic version of Truvada in the United States.

And of course, it's the GOP to the rescue. First to sound off is Rep. Chip Roy of Texas (natch):

Congressman Roy called it "offensive" – not that companies are exponentially raising prices on life-saving drugs they sell in other countries for a fraction of the cost, but over Americans criticizing the drug manufacturers for making out-of-control profits while people are literally dying because they can't afford the high cost of their prescriptions. . . .

"But to sit here and attack the capitalistic system that produces and distributes medicine that saves lives here and around the world?" Roy said, exploding in a rant that seemed to be designed for the cameras. Roy, no political novice, has worked for numerous high-profile Texas Republicans, including Rick Perry, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, and Ken Paxton.

"I mean, it is just offensive," Rep. Roy proclaimed, pounding his fists on the desk. "I mean, I just cannot possibly understand, listening, lecturing companies about making money!"

And then Rep. "Gym" Jordan:

“Rather than applaud Gilead for manufacturing this miracle drug, they wish to demonize the company for making a profit,” Rep. Jim Jordan said Thursday. “The reality is that while Gilead has made money on this drug there doesn’t seem to be genuine issues with access.”

Of course, there's no problem with access for those who can afford $2,000 a month.

This is just one facet of a much larger problem: drug companies have been jacking up prices on prescription drugs over the past few years; many of those drugs were developed by researchers working under grants from the CDC, if not working at the CDC itself.

We're dealing with the newest incarnation of robber barons.

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