Gilead presses HIV drug fraud in court, wins freeze of 'kingpin' assets

Gilead Sciences says it's dealing with a massive fraud scheme and was scammed out of millions of dollars. Now, that saga is playing out in a Miami court.

Truvada, the company's original therapy for preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP), was the first of it kind when it entered the market in 2012. The drug works as a preventive treatment for those at risk of contracting HIV. Through its Advancing Access Medication Assistance Program (MAP), Gilead provides free drug to uninsured patients. With MAP, eligible patients can receive Truvada and the follow-up med Descovy.

In 2019, Gilead’s MAP records began to show a disproportionate amount of redemptions. The company alleges these discrepancies were the result of a massive scheme that earned certain Florida healthcare clinics, prescribers, medical laboratories and pharmacies millions of Gilead’s dollars.

The scheme involved clinics fraudulently enrolling patients in MAP, including individuals who were experiencing homelessness, and paying them to submit a sham wellness check and pick up PrEP medication and refills. The medication was then illegally repacked and, in some cases, purchased and sold on the black market.

After the company collected evidence of the schemes, including whistleblower reports, Gilead in November 2020 filed a lawsuit against 58 defendants.

Those defendants include clinicians, pharmacists, prescribers and lab technicians. The company is seeking the recovery of tens of millions of dollars that it says were misappropriated through these schemes. Instead of those millions going to uninsured people for PrEP, certain defendants—called “kingpin defendants” in the lawsuit—spent the money on lavish real estate, private jets, expensive jewelry and luxury cars.

In March 2022, the company filed motions to the court seeking an asset freeze against the leaders of these alleged schemes to prevent them from dissipating or concealing assets. The motion was granted this month on the grounds that Gilead has established that it will suffer “irreparable injury” if relief is not granted, based on forensic accountant William Waldie’s 800 hours of financial analysis of the defendants’ financial records, a court filing states. The court also demands a complete list of all the defendant’s assets.

“Gilead’s free drug program has helped tens of thousands of individuals receive free HIV prevention medicine. This blatant fraud and abuse of the program further reinforces the importance of recent changes to the program model that will help protect its integrity and long-term stability,” a Gilead Sciences spokesperson said. “Gilead will continue to take urgent and serious legal action to protect public safety and deter those who seek to exploit our free drug program.”

HIV treatments have made other fraud headlines this year. In January, Gilead revealed that it had seized counterfeit versions of its HIV products and supply chain documentation, leading to a Department of Justice investigation into counterfeit knockoffs of HIV drugs from several companies including Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline.