AIDS advocates say 'No Way O'Day' as yearlong attack on Gilead’s 'profiteering' gets personal

AIDS advocates are keeping up the pressure on Gilead Sciences. After mounting attacks on both sides of the Atlantic, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) protested outside Gilead’s California headquarters as part of “yearlong aggressive advocacy campaign” to hammer the big biotech’s “drug profiteering.”

Last year, the AHF, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that provides meds and care to HIV/AIDS patients and carers, accused Gilead of placing “unlawful restrictions on 340B contract pharmacy programs” to avoid offering its HIV drugs at a discount. AHF Europe maintained the pressure in March when it ran a protest outside Gilead’s Amsterdam office in a push to increase access to treatments for HIV and hepatitis C.

The AHF got personal for the latest protest, calling out Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day over his pay. O'Day’s total pay packet increased 11% to $21.62 million last year, largely as a result of increases to his stock awards and incentive-based compensation. Salary accounted for $1.7 million of the pay packet.

Coining the phrase “No Way O’Day” for the protest, the AHF accused Gilead of “tone-deaf greed,” particularly with regards to “illegal restrictions” the nonprofit accused it of placing “on access to 340B drug pricing for its branded hepatitis C treatments for certain pharmacies.”

A Gilead spokesperson repeated elements of the company’s rebuttal to the earlier protests, highlighting its role “in ending the HIV and hepatitis epidemics” and noting it has “provided free medicine to more than 250,000 individuals” through its free drug program. The spokesperson also cited the $250 million in HIV charitable contributions and grants that Gilead made in 2021 and its role in community programs. 

“Gilead has a long history of working closely across sectors and in partnership with the HIV community to help end the epidemic. As a leader in HIV, we will continue to work together with the HIV community and policymakers to overcome the remaining barriers to HIV prevention, care and treatment, and to advance public health initiatives to combat HIV,” the spokesperson said.

Similar arguments have failed to quell the AHF’s grievances with Gilead in the past. The protests target key parts of Gilead’s business. Sales of HIV products increased (PDF) 13% to $4.19 billion in the first quarter. Gilead cited “favorable pricing dynamics” as the main driver of the growth. The once-mighty hepatitis C franchise is now a smaller part of the business but grew 12% to $445 million in the quarter.