Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Did Sup. Campos Push Gilead to Lower Truvada Price? 

(Campos at microphone during a PrEP rally at City Hall in September. Public domain image.)

The voters of San Francisco in November 2013 overwhelmingly passed the advisory measure Prop D by a margin of 80% to 20%, which stated the following:

"Shall it be city policy to use all available opportunities to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and to ask state and federal representatives to sponsor legislation to reduce drug prices paid by the government?"

Because of the "all available opportunities" clause, I filed a public records request with Sup. David Campos' office for all of their emails about Truvada and PrEP since he lead the City Hall charge to secure special funds for the Department of Public Health to hire navigators to assist individuals who want the drug to prevent acquiring HIV but lack the funds or insurance to pay for it.

I received and pored over hundreds of Campos office emails and didn't read any that discussed the price of Truvada or using this high-profile opportunity to reduce the cost of prescription medicines. It was good to read the notes with Gilead representatives about obtaining all the necessary research about Truvada's effectiveness at stop HIV transmissions, and that Campos' staff advocated for expanding Gilead's PAP (patient assistance program) for lower income or uninsured or undocumented immigrants.

Wanting to be sure I didn't overlook such Campos correspondence, I contacted his aide Carolyn Goossen asking if there indeed were records showing Campos in any way advocated for lowering Truvada's cost. She replied:

"Our office has submitted to you all emails that are responsive to your request for all emails received or sent by you or or anyone in your office related in any way to the HIV drug Truvada, its manufacturer Gilead or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)…for the period from May 1, 2014, through November 17, 2014.'

"If you are looking for further records previous to this set of dates, please let me know."

This non-response leads me to the sad conclusion that Campos and his aides didn't use Prop D's passage or otherwise pressure Gilead to reduce Truvada's price.

Here we had a gay San Francisco elected official and leading local progressive giving Gilead several million dollars of free publicity, not to mention a special appropriation creating new clients for its Truvada drug, and the email trail fails to show advocacy on Campos' part to use the opportunity to lobby for lower pricing or even raise the cost issue during the months of publicity.

There is a crying need for LGBT health advocates and HIV prevention folks to speak loudly urging Gilead to lower the price of Truvada and all of their HIV and hepatitis drugs.

No comments: