Monday, April 28, 2014

AHF's Weinstein Denies Tithing Claim Linked to Gilead & HIV Drugs

After publishing my post on AIDS Healthcare Foundation honcho Michael Weinstein's labeling Truvada a party drug for sexually active gay men using it as a prevention method, and pointing out how many millions AHF had received from Gilead over the years, an East Coast based treatment advocate of longstanding sent me this note about what he believes is reason for Weinstein's opposition to the drug as PrEP. The advocate writes:

Weinstein wants more than Gilead has been willing to give. His rationale is that other companies have given a lot when they have a smaller share of the HIV drug market; Gilead has the largest sales and they should "tithe" to AHF proportionately to their sales.

I shared that with Weinstein today and he replied:

There is not now nor has there ever been a tithing concept applied to Gilead or any other company. 95% of Gilead contributions went to supporting treatment for poor countries. We knew we were jeopardizing the support from Gilead when we first took them on on pricing and then PrEP. I don't know why it is so difficult for people to believe that this is our principled position.

We currently get no support from any drug company other than a limited amount of drug donations in the developing world where the overwhelming majority of our patients reside.

AHF has bitten the hand that feeds us, when needed, from day one.

Our 2014 budget is $904 million. Any amount of support from Gilead or any company would not be significant. I wonder why the opposite question is not being asked: How are the tens of millions that Gilead is spreading around to promote PrEP contributing to the support that groups are giving them on pricing and PrEP?

Next, I contacted Gilead's Amy Flood and she responded thus:

Gilead is not promoting PrEP; that means there are no dollars being allocated to promotional activities by Gilead or by any organization receiving grant funding from Gilead; this is a stipulation of our grant-making. 

The company provides financial support for third-party non-profit groups conducting educational activities with respect to the role of PrEP as part of comprehensive HIV prevention; that support has totaled approximately $3 million in the past two years. 

Additionally, Gilead has in some cases provided support via a donation of drug for the conduct of clinical trials and demonstration projects to evaluate PrEP.

Here's my two cents on this. First, we need to keep shining a spotlight on Weinstein's Truvada views and Gilead's responses.

Next, I recall a tithing idea floating around for AIDS Inc groups during my time on ACT UP/NYC's Treatment + Data Committee and didn't think it was necessarily such a bad idea. Still don't, in theory. But the larger picture of sky-high prices charged by Gilead and all of Big Pharma for their HIV medicines is an issue that never goes away.

It's long irked me that AIDS Inc hasn't applied sustained pressure on Big Pharma to reduce domestic prices of HIV cocktails and didn't lobby during negotiations over Obamacare when drug pricing competitiveness, or lack thereof, was on the Congressional table.

At best, AIDS Inc has lobbied mightily at the federal and state levels for government payment of the cocktails for qualified people living with HIV.

And this is my bit of AIDS treatment and prevention activism for the day.

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