AIDS advocates with placards protesting Gilead policy
AIDS advocates are holding a week long series of protests outside Gilead's California headquarters.

AIDS Advocates Holding Weeklong Protest Over Gilead’s 340B Contract Pharmacy Restrictions and Changes In Patient Assistance Program

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) members are staging a weeklong, twice-daily series of protests at drug maker Gilead Science’s Northern California headquarters to protest the company’s policy to impose conditions on 340B providers that use contract pharmacies to dispense 340B-priced drugs.   They are also upset about Gilead’s change in its patient assistance program for some HIV medications.

In May, Gilead began requiring hospital and grantee covered entities to provide claims level data for the Bay Area company’s branded hepatitis C products to continue to be eligible for bill to/ship to orders for multiple contract pharmacies. Entities that decline to provide their data and that do not have an in-house pharmacy can select a single contract pharmacy location. The policy does not apply to entities’ wholly owned contract pharmacies.

AHF, the world’s largest global AIDS organization, said Gilead’s motive in imposing the restrictions is to increase its profits even though the U.S. Health and Human Services has declared the actions illegal. 

AHF is also upset about a change in policy that took place Jan. 1 that significantly lowered reimbursement pharmacies received for treating uninsured HIV patients. Gilead announced it would reduce reimbursement for 340B pharmacies for its branded PrEP drugs Truvada and Descovy that uninsured patients get for free through the company’s Advancing Access patient assistance/medication assistance program.

The new, lower acquisition cost reimbursement level would be even for purchases at non-340B prices, advocates pointed out. Pharmacies seeking a higher rate of reimbursement would have to file an appeal with supporting documentation. Gilead would also require pharmacies to become part of a participating network.

Consultants working with HIV providers told 340B Report at the time that the loss in reimbursement fees could force some HIV clinics out of programs such as MISTR, where patients can obtain a PrEP prescription through a telehealth consultation. Typically, the covered entities use 340B funds to pay for the MISTR service, said Jennifer Lockwood, CEO of Ravin Consultants.

A Gilead spokesperson told 340B Report today that their contract pharmacy restrictions do not apply to Gilead’s HIV medicines – or to the authorized generics of Epclusa and Harvoni – manufactured by Gilead’s subsidiary, Asegua Therapeutics. The spokesperson referenced a previous statement on their website defending the company’s contract pharmacy restrictions.

They also defended their changes in their patient assistance program. “Through our free drug program, Gilead has provided free medicine to more than 250,000 individuals. Gilead is the largest private funder of HIV programs in the U.S., providing more than $250 million in charitable contributions and grants in 2021 alone to support efforts to help end the HIV epidemic.”

AHF, on the other hand, has a difference of opinion. The organization says that the generic and older versions are inferior and that Gilead has doubled the price they charge to safety net providers for their HIV prevention drug Descovy.

“We are fighting against Gilead’s greed to fatten their corporate pockets, “AIDS advocate Jesse Brooks said in the AHF release. “Their money-making schemes not only impact community partners and providers but also patients, like myself. I am one of many voices of community advocates who stand against pharma greed. Gilead cares more about money than lives,” Brooks said.

In conjunction with the week of protests, AHF said it is running a series of ads in several Bay Area print and online publications that is repurposing Gilead’s logo as “Greediad.”

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