US sen­a­tors, ac­tivists chas­tise Gilead­'s Tru­va­da pric­ing, spot­light­ing CDC patents on drug's use as HIV pre­ven­tion pill

Once up­on a time, Gilead was the pur­vey­or of im­pos­si­bly high-priced, but fan­tas­ti­cal­ly ef­fec­tive, he­pati­tis C drugs. Now at­ten­tion has turned to its HIV pill, Tru­va­da, which the CDC re­port­ed­ly has some patents on. In a let­ter to the HHS, a cadre of US sen­a­tors un­der­scored their con­cern that the drug — which is ap­proved to pre­vent HIV — could be in­fring­ing up­on gov­ern­ment patents and is be­ing sold at a price that makes it un­af­ford­able for many Amer­i­cans.

Tru­va­da — emtric­itabine/teno­fovir diso­prox­il fu­marate — was ap­proved in 2004 to treat HIV. In 2012, it was sanc­tioned by the FDA as a pre­ven­ta­tive treat­ment or PrEP (pre-ex­po­sure pro­phy­lax­is), in which in­di­vid­u­als at high risk for HIV take med­i­cines dai­ly to low­er their chances of con­tract­ing the in­fec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the CDC, dai­ly PrEP re­duces the risk of get­ting HIV via sex­u­al in­ter­course by more than 90%.

Ac­cord­ing to a coali­tion of HIV/AIDs ac­tivists — the PrEP4All Col­lab­o­ra­tion — few­er than 10% of at-risk in­di­vid­u­als in the Unit­ed States re­ceive Tru­va­da as PrEP, and in­fec­tion rates re­main high (rough­ly 38,700 Amer­i­cans be­came new­ly in­fect­ed with HIV in 2016, ac­cord­ing to US gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates) par­tic­u­lar­ly among peo­ple of col­or and men who have sex with men. The chief bar­ri­er is price: “Gilead charges $1600 per month for pills that cost as lit­tle as $6 per month abroad, mean­ing that some in­sur­ers do not cov­er it and in­di­vid­u­als can­not af­ford to pay for it out of pock­et,” ac­cord­ing to an analy­sis by Yale Law School, which has part­nered with PrEP4All.

In March, the Yale Glob­al Health Jus­tice Part­ner­ship pub­lished a re­port that found CDC sci­en­tists were the first to de­ter­mine that the drugs that com­prise Gilead’s Tru­va­da could be used to pre­vent HIV trans­mis­sion. As such, the agency was grant­ed a patent in 2015 that cov­ers HIV PrEP with a com­bi­na­tion of emtric­itabine and teno­fovir diso­prox­il fu­marate, the two drugs that make up Tru­va­da. Two oth­er patents were grant­ed lat­er. The Yale analy­sis con­clud­ed that Tru­va­da ap­peared to in­fringe CDC’s patents for PrEP and that the US gov­ern­ment could as­sert the patents and seek mon­e­tary dam­ages.

“Gilead bore the risk and cer­tain­ly the vast ma­jor­i­ty of the cost of re­search and clin­i­cal stud­ies to demon­strate Tru­va­da’s ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty as part of com­bi­na­tion HIV ther­a­py,” a Gilead spokesper­son told End­points News.

“The HHS patents on the drug’s use for PrEP were filed more than a year af­ter the drug had been dis­cussed by sci­en­tists for PrEP, had been rec­om­mend­ed and even pre­scribed off-la­bel by physi­cians for pre­ven­tion of HIV in­fec­tions, and ap­peared in guide­lines pub­lished by the CDC and oth­er health care or­ga­ni­za­tions for post-ex­po­sure pro­phy­lax­is (PEP) and PrEP.  As such, the gov­ern­ment did not in­vent PrEP, Tru­va­da or Tru­va­da for PrEP and its patents should not have been grant­ed.”

Gilead gen­er­at­ed glob­al Tru­va­da sales of near­ly $3 bil­lion last year, of which about $2.6 bil­lion came from the Unit­ed States. A gener­ic ver­sion of Tru­va­da is sold by My­lan $MYL in high-in­come Eu­ro­pean coun­tries and Aus­tralia, and the CDC is col­lect­ing a “small” roy­al­ty on those sales, af­ter the gener­ic drug­mak­er un­suc­cess­ful­ly chal­lenged the CDC patent in the Eu­ro­pean Patent Of­fice, STAT re­port­ed ear­li­er this month.

In a let­ter post­ed ear­li­er in April, the PrEP4All Col­lab­o­ra­tion high­light­ed that Gilead has “con­sis­tent­ly in­creased the price of the drug, for both pre­ven­tion and treat­ment, since its in­tro­duc­tion” and that the CDC patents rep­re­sent a po­ten­tial “mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar fund­ing stream” via roy­al­ty pay­ments that could fund a uni­ver­sal PrEP pro­gram to dra­mat­i­cal­ly re­duce the num­ber of new HIV in­fec­tions in the coun­try and/or com­pell Gilead $GILD to dra­mat­i­cal­ly low­er the price of PrEP.

Gilead ap­pears to po­ten­tial­ly be mar­ket­ing a pre­scrip­tion drug for us­es that are patent­ed by the US gov­ern­ment, sev­en US Sen­a­tors wrote in a let­ter pub­lished on Wednes­day.

“We would like to know what steps have been tak­en to en­sure that any us­ages by pri­vate com­pa­nies of gov­ern­ment-held patents are prop­er­ly li­censed and that any po­ten­tial in­fringe­ments are act­ed up­on… Al­though Sec­re­tary Azar has stat­ed that ne­go­ti­a­tions are on­go­ing, Gilead has re­port­ed­ly reached no agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment that would al­low them to make use of these patent­ed meth­ods,” they wrote, seek­ing doc­u­ments on the sta­tus of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the gov­ern­ment and Gilead, among oth­er re­quests.

“There are no on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Gilead and HHS with re­spect to the patents owned by the gov­ern­ment,” the com­pa­ny spokesper­son said, adding that Gilead is in dis­cus­sion with the gov­ern­ment to de­ter­mine the best way to broad­en ac­cess to Tru­va­da for PrEP.

Mean­while, the US De­part­ment of Jus­tice is re­view­ing the gov­ern­ment PrEP patent, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Wash­ing­ton Post, which cit­ed a re­tired CDC sci­en­tist who was among agency staff speak­ing with a DoJ lawyer last week.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 60,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 60,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

[via AP Images]

Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 60,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 60,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.