Every year, American taxpayers spend more than $39bn through the National Institutes of Health to fund medical research to discover new life-saving treatments and drugs. American patients risk their health and generally jeopardize their lives to test whether these new drugs are safe and effective during clinical trials.
Much of it is because big pharmaceutical companies exploit both the private American health care system and the patent laws to perpetuate injustice on the American people.
For example, the California-based pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, which markets the drug Truvada, a formulation of two antiretroviral medications tenofovir and emtricitabine that inhibit the HIV’s ability to hijack our cells and replicate.
While the generic version of Truvada is obtainable in several countries outside the United States for around $840 annually per patient, Gilead uses its patent on the drug to charge Americans close to around $24,000 annually per patient. That’s for the exact fixed-dos combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine that costs around $60 annually per patient to produce.
Around one million patients are at high risk of contracting HIV in the US — but only 160,000 patients are taking Truvada due to its high price. With correct daily use, Truvada is 99 percent effective, yet over 40,000 people are infected with HIV in America every year. If generic Truvada were available and all 40,000 patients were on it before being infected, the number of people would be closer to around 400. The endemic spread of HIV in the US could then be drastically reduced — or even eliminated.
What’s exasperating is that American taxpayers funded much of the research and development for Truvada. So much, that the CDC owns the patent for the drug. So Gilead has been creating $3bn a year selling a drug that belongs to Americans themselves.