The news came via an announcement from AIDS activist Peter Staley via Facebook. “Gilead reached an agreement with Teva Pharmaceuticals in 2014 to allow the early launch of a generic version of Truvada into the market in 2020, a year earlier than required,” the post said. Staley had learned of the news in an email from Douglas M. Brooks, Gilead’s executive director for community engagement. Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals produces a number of generic drugs for use in the US and around the world. Teva will obtain the exclusive rights to produce generic Truvada for one year beginning in September 2020. One year later, the formula will become available to other drug manufacturers as well.
Truvada revolutionized treatment for HIV by combining a cocktail of antiviral drugs into a single pill in 2004. It has since become part of the standard treatment for HIV+ individuals, and the primary drug in PrEP, a medical regimen designed to prevent transmission of HIV.
Gilead earned an estimated $3 billion from sales of Truvada in 2018. At least one-third of gay men in the US now take PrEP as a means of HIV prevention, though studies show lower income individuals–particularly men of color–have trouble getting access to the program.
Dr. Alan Lord, spokesperson for the pro-PrEP initiative PrEP4All called the announcement “a victory for the LGBTQ+ community, for HIV activists, and for U.S. taxpayers.” Still, he criticized the move as not fast enough to help at-risk individuals. “Even their announcement today leaves Gilead with exclusive rights to Truvada as PrEP for another 15 months and Teva as the only generic manufacturer on the U.S. market,” he noted. “This will do little to reduce price in a way that will increase access and PrEP4All remains suspicious of the terms and lack of transparency surrounding the Teva settlement. I have to ask, what’s to stop them — other than a desire for profit margins — from releasing the rights now?”
The federal government has spent more than $50 million in grants to help offset the cost of Truvada, which can cost up to $2,000 per month. PrEP remains the most effective means of HIV prevention, with only a handful of documented cases of the drug treatment failing when correctly followed.