Planes, hearses and caravans dot 'Gilead Greed Kills!' protests from AIDS foundation

The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation has already sued Gilead Sciences and asked lawmakers to investigate the company over its drug pricing. But it’s not stopping there.

The foundation has launched a “Gilead Greed Kills!” advocacy campaign and staged two protests, the latest of which took place Wednesday in front of the California company’s Foster City headquarters. Fifty AIDS advocates, bedecked in “Gilead Greed Kills!” t-shirts, carried banners and placards criticizing the company for high prices on its HIV and hepatitis C meds.

That demonstration followed an effort last week, during Gilead's presentation at the Goldman Sachs Healthcare Conference, held at a Los Angeles-area resort. That protest included a car caravan--complete with a hearse; a double-decker bus; and a small plane towing a “Gilead Greed Kills!” banner that AHF says “flew back and forth over the resort for several hours.”

Gilead did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The organization’s outrage has been building for awhile now; earlier this year, it hit the Big Biotech with a lawsuit claiming the company had delayed development of a low-toxicity HIV med in “a calculated, anticompetitive manner” to keep prices high on fellow drug Viread until its patent was close to expiration.

But it was a recent Los Angeles Times article--which detailed the development timeline on the new med, now known as Genvoya--that sparked further action from AHF.  According to the paper, Gilead’s investigators had clinical evidence that their compound could cut toxicity levels, but they halted research on the candidate in 2004 while Viread, meanwhile, went on to reach blockbuster heights. In response, AHF petitioned lawmakers and the FDA to investigate the company for potential patent manipulation and antitrust violations, citing Gilead’s “bald-faced greed” and “disregard for patient safety.”

Gilead, meanwhile, denies the lawsuit’s claims; it “had no duty to develop, test, seek approval of, or launch its new product on any particular timetable,” it says. The company says it delayed the Viread follow-up to put its R&D budget behind other programs.

But still, the recent hullaballoo doesn’t exactly look good for the drugmaker, which has been facing outcry over the prices for its hep C heavyweights since breakthrough cure Sovaldi launched with an $84,000 price tag in late 2013.

- read AHF's release 

Special Report: The top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue - Gilead Sciences

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