Gilead Sciences opens a new chapter, publishes the world's 'hardest book to read' to reveal patients stuck in the margins

Depicting the plight of patients with chronic and potentially fatal diseases is always a challenge for pharma companies, but Gilead Sciences has quite literally found a novel way forward.

Teaming up with British historian, presenter and writer Professor David Olusoga, OBE, Gilead is launching “From the Margins,” (PDF) in what is intended to be one of the most difficult books to read. That’s because the book has every word printed entirely in the margins of the pages in what Gilead and Prof. Olusoga see as a direct inversion of a normal book.

The idea is simple: “To tell the profoundly moving personal stories of marginalized people living with HIV, Hepatitis C and cancer,” according to a statement sent to Fierce Pharma Marketing. Gilead markets drugs for all three diseases. 

The book is specific to Britain and being run to “to raise awareness of the issue of marginalization and health inequality in the U.K.,” according to Gilead, and comes on the 75th anniversary of the NHS, the country’s taxpayer-funded healthcare system.

“Human societies have always been unequal and human beings have always displayed a tendency to recoil and retreat from illness and disease,” said Prof. Olusoga in a statement.

“As many of the personal testimonies in From the Margins powerfully demonstrate, historic patterns of inequality and marginalization have not been consigned to history. They are affecting lives and shaping outcomes in our society right now in the 21st Century.”

The book isn’t just hard to read physically either, as its content is also designed to pack a punch. It is full of “heart-breaking tales of marginalization,” which are “unfiltered, unedited” and the words of those who lived these experiences, according to Gilead.

This includes Joshua Royal, a young, gay, Black man from London who contracted HIV and battled racism and discrimination, as well as Husseina Hamza, a Muslim woman living with HIV and Kieron Allen, a man who fought addiction for 30 years before contracting Hepatitis C in his 50s.

While the stories are raw, they also come with a message of bravery and hope in the face of these struggles.

“While it is hoped that the release of the book will shine an uncomfortable light on the issue of marginalization and health inequality for the British public, it will also be used by Gilead Sciences as a catalyst to try and affect changes for those diverse communities and individuals who remain unheard,” the pharma said in the release.

The afterword, written by Dr. Véronique Walsh, Gilead’s U.K. general manager, outlines potential next steps to tackle health inequalities.

The book's launch also comes with a film that features Prof. Olusoga discussing health inequality. 

Gilead currently markets several HIV treatments, including Biktarvy, as well as a franchise of Hep C meds (and former major blockbusters) in the forms of Harvoni and Sovaldi, as well as cancer drug Trodelvy and CAR-T blood cancer therapy Yescarta, to name but a few.