Bristol Myers settles HIV antitrust suit, but J&J, Gilead still await their day in court

The first of the three pharma juggernauts accused by prominent AIDS and gay rights activist Peter Staley of monopolizing the market for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs is putting its legal woes to bed.

Bristol Myers Squibb will hand over up to $11 million to settle a lawsuit claiming it, Gilead Sciences and Johnson & Johnson used anticompetitive marketing tactics to block generic competition to HIV drugs. Importantly, the other two companies aren't involved in the settlement.

The lawsuit, which Staley filed in 2019, accuses the companies of making exclusive deals to use only their drugs—not generic substitutes—in any fixed-dose combinations of multiple HIV meds, also known as cocktail therapies. This allegedly applied even after patents on the companies’ drugs had run out, keeping lower-cost generics out of the mix. Customers and other purchasers were forced to pay more for the final HIV cocktail treatments in turn, according to the plaintiff.

This led to “sky-high” costs for certain HIV meds, the lawsuit said.

"While we believe the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit, we are pleased to put this matter behind us so that we can continue to focus our resources on advancing more scientific innovations for patients in areas of significant unmet need,” a BMS spokesperson said over email.


The settlement, which still needs to be approved by a California federal judge, would pave the way for generics of the cocktail treatment Evotaz, comprising atazanavir and cobicstat. The first ingredient is made by BMS and the latter by Gilead.

Barring the settlement, generics will be kept at bay until September 2029.

About $10.8 million of the potential deal will be set aside for people who had to shell out more for their co-pays, Stat News first reported, citing Staley.

Meanwhile, Gilead and Johnson & Johnson are forging ahead toward a potential trial. That's slated for early next year. 

Back when the lawsuit surfaced in 2019, a Gilead spokesperson told Fierce Pharma the company "entered into partnerships with other companies with the goal of bringing life-saving therapies to patients in need,” adding that "[a]ny suggestion that we had improper motives is absolutely false.”