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For several years Gilead Sciences have faced allegations of intentionally suppressing better, safer HIV drugs in order to increase profits off of current medications already developed. In 2019, a federal judge motioned for a lawsuit filed by claimants in 31 states to proceed.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs allege that Gilead Sciences stopped advancing their tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF) based on HIV medications as early as 2004 in order to maximize profits from the currently used tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) drugs. The lawsuit further alleges the company was aware the new drug was a safer alternative but intentionally sidelined the new medication for profit, according to the Washington Blade.
The suit alleges that due to this delay in releasing the new medication, those who took TDF began to develop kidney and bone problems due to the extended use of the TDF medications, primarily because the newer TAF based drugs required lower doses thus causing less kidney damage.
Between the years of 2001 and 2012, Gilead won FDA approval for Complera, Viread, Truvada, and Stribild. According to the Washington Post, While TAF was showing more promising signs as early as 2004, Gilead continued releasing three other TDF drugs to the public rather than pushing for the better and safer alternative.
When Gilead originally began researching TAF, they discontinued further study telling the public that the new drug was too similar to the current TDF studies. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs knew it was not similar, but that they saw an opportunity for further profit in holding off on further studies for TAF research
When Gilead released the new TAF drugs to the public, they announced with particular attention to the improved safety of the TAF medications in particular in the opportunity for a medication with lower risk to kidney and bone toxicity as a top reason for doctors and patients to make the switch. The lawsuit further claims that “the very benefits that Gilead could have and should have incorporated into its prior product designs but withheld from doctors and patients for over a decade.”
This is not the first time Gilead has come under fire for accusations of placing profit before the health of their patients. In 2016, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed lawsuits against the company after Gilead halted research after initial studies had shown the new drugs to appear to be much safer and just as effective and in smaller quantities, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In this new lawsuit, the plaintiffs are not only revisiting the claims that Gilead intentionally withheld improved medications but in doing so they caused unnecessary pain and suffering due to complications from TDF that could have been prevented if they had pursued the healthier alternative medications. They further allege claims of negligence and failure to issue proper drug warnings, failure to issue a recall and other allegations.
Gilead has responded to this new complaint by requesting dismissal on the grounds that the company had no legal responsibility to release TAF medications earlier than it did citing precedent in the case against them by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois rejected the initial response of Gilead and has allowed the case to proceed. The plaintiffs have until May 31 to file an amended suit to get some of the claims rejected by the court reinstated.
Eric Ridenour’s journalism experience began in the 1990s. He was a contributing writer to various publications, investigating government waste and fraud while studying journalism at Citrus College in California. In 2002, he joined the staff of University Wire, or UWire, in Carlsbad, California, where he was an editor until 2010.