The logo of pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences is seen in Oceanside, California on April 29, 2020.
Mike Blake | Reuters
A jury in Delaware federal court was cleared on Tuesday Gilead Sciences civil suit by the US government that the company violated patents held by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for an HIV prevention drug.
The government sued Gilead in 2019, arguing the company was profiting from it CDC patents through sales of Truvada and Descovy, oral medications taken to prevent HIV infection.
But jurors after a days-long trial found that the government’s patented claims to the HIV prevention regimen called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, were invalid.
“Today’s decision confirms our long-standing belief that we have always had the right to make Truvada and Descovy for PrEP available to anyone who needs them,” said Gilead’s general counsel, Deb Telman, in a statement.
“Gilead will continue to champion collaborations, including our efforts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC that span more than 15 years, as we all work together toward our common goal of end the HIV epidemic for everyone, everywhere,” Telman said.
HHS, the CDC’s parent entity, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict.
Gilead’s combined worldwide sales of Truvada and Descovy were about $2 billion in 2022, according to the company’s financial statements.
The government claimed that in the mid-2000s, the CDC discovered that two drugs, emtricitabine and tenofovir, were very effective in preventing HIV infection.
Truvada and Descovy both contain emtricitabine and tenofovir. But Gilead said it invented the drugs and the concept of using Truvada to prevent HIV was well known when the US government filed the patents.
PrEP has played a crucial role in reducing the number of new HIV infections in communities at higher risk of contracting the virus, such as men who have sex with men.
Scientists have tried for decades to develop a vaccine against HIV. But these efforts so far have been unsuccessful.
About 40 million people worldwide have died of HIV since the epidemic began in the 1980s, according to the World Health Organization. More than 80 million people have been infected.
In 2021, there were 38 million people living with HIV, according to WHO data.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct name of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.