Lawsuit alleges Gilead propped up cost of HIV drug

A scientist at Gilead Sciences analyzes patient antibody levels at the Gilead laboratory in Foster City, California.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences engaged in a “long-running scheme” to block generic competition of its combination drug “cocktails” to treat HIV, a completely new California lawsuit filed on Monday alleges.

The plaintiffs inside the suit claim of which Gilead’s actions caused the cost of the life-saving treatment to rise.

The suit accuses Gilead, the nation’s leading drugmaker for HIV treatments, of violating antitrust laws along with maintaining a monopoly on the market for the HIV treatment known as “combination antiretroviral therapy,” or cART.

The complaint, filed inside the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, names drugmakers Bristol-Myers Squibb along with Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals as co-defendants in what the plaintiffs say was a scheme to extend patent protection for their drugs along with charge “exorbitant, supracompetitive” prices for the drugs.

The companies are accused of entering into numerous “collusive agreements” of which dissuaded Bristol-Myers along with Johnson & Johnson via competing with Gilead’s HIV treatment. The suit also alleges the drugmakers would likely block additional companies via competing against Gilead’s treatment even after Gilead’s patents expired. Representatives for Bristol-Myers along with Janssen said of which they received the complaint along with are reviewing of which. Neither company offered additional comment. 

Combination drugs reduce the total number of medications a person with HIV has to take. The treatment reduces the levels of the HIV virus inside the blood, helps reverse damage to the immune system along with reduces the risk of AIDS-related illnesses. According to the suit, more than 80% of patients starting an HIV regimen inside the United States take one or more of Gilead’s combination drugs every day.

The company generates more than $11 billion in revenue yearly via sales of its HIV treatments.

Along with driving up prices, the suit claims Gilead’s monopoly on the HIV treatment market stifled innovation, “causing tens of thousands of people living with HIV to needlessly suffer debilitating side effects via inferior products.”

Gilead shares were unchanged after market closed Monday. The company did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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