After years of litigation, Gilead and Teva's HIV antitrust trial kicks off in California

Gilead Sciences and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries have spent years defending against claims they worked together to thwart competition to Gilead's lucrative portfolio of HIV medicines. Now, the case is finally heading to trial.

Gilead and Teva's HIV antitrust trial kicked off Wednesday in a California federal court, launching a courtroom showdown in which the two must defend against claims they colluded to delay generic competition to Gilead’s HIV meds. 

UnitedHealthcare, the largest health insurer in the U.S., alleges the companies ran a pay-for-delay scheme that prevented cheaper HIV generics from entering the market in a timely manner. UnitedHealthcare is accompanied by other plaintiffs including CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid and Walgreens, among others.

The plaintiffs first filed the case in 2019, raising claims that the two drugmakers inked a series of unfair patent settlements that delayed market entry for HIV generics. Thanks to those delays, the plaintiffs paid more for HIV medicines, they contend.

The lawsuits claim that the companies struck deals to delay a generic form of Gilead's Viread until December 2017. The companies pushed back Truvada and Atripla generics until September 2020, the plaintiffs argue.  

Teva plans to “vigorously defend” itself against the allegations, a spokesperson said over email. The patent settlement in question allowed Teva to bring generic versions of the drugs to market “years earlier” than would have been possible otherwise, the spokesperson added.

Gilead, for its part, said in a statement that the antitrust claims “lack merit” and that the settlement with Teva “allowed for generic medicines to come on the market before the expiration of the patents.”

Last March, Teva and Gilead asked U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen to dismiss some claims in the suit. The judge set aside some of the plaintiffs' claims but allowed many to move forward.

Bristol Myers Squibb, previously a defendant, wiped its hands of the case last April with a $11 million settlement. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit is embroiled in a separate category of claims regarding HIV combination drugs but is not a part of this specific trial.