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Viread and Atripla Lawsuit Claims Gilead Prioritized Profits Over Patients

pills and bottle

Another plaintiff has filed a lawsuit against Gilead Sciences, claiming that the company marketed HIV medications it knew to be unsafe and intentionally withheld access to safer medications in order to maximize their profits. Philip Epstein filed his Atripla and Viread lawsuit in the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit for Palm Beach County, Florida. On October 29, the defendants filed a notice of removal. The case was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

About the allegations

The Epstein lawsuit shares similar allegations with the growing number of cases being filed against Gilead with regard to their TDF medications, which include Truvada, Atripla, and Viread. This family of medications all contains tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, or TDF. According to the lawsuits, TDF significantly increases the risk of severe complications, including kidney and bone problems. Specifically, plaintiffs have alleged they have developed osteoporosis, osteopenia, acute kidney failure, chronic kidney failure, and other kidney-related diseases that require dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Epstein and the other plaintiffs have asserted that the defendants were negligent in failing to provide adequate warnings about the serious risks of the TDF drugs, which are intended to treat HIV. Although HIV is currently incurable, it can be managed. Drugs such as TDF may slow the progression of the disease and extend the patients’ life. These medicines work by interfering with the ability of the virus to replicate within the body. However, the plaintiffs say that the potential for harm outweighs the possible benefits of the drugs.

Gilead alleged to have withheld a safer medication

Epstein and the other plaintiffs further allege that Gilead Sciences knew about a safer alternative to TDF since the early 2000s. This drug, known as TAF, was shown in clinical trials to be far more effective than Viread, Atripla, and other TDF drugs, with a more favorable safety profile. However, plaintiffs say that the defendants suppressed research and development efforts for years in order to maximize their profits from the older generation TDF drugs while the company still held the exclusive patent on them.

In fact, Gilead has come under fire recently for alleged patent manipulation. In October 2017, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) had called upon Gilead to initiate a 90 percent reduction on tenofovir-based drugs in anticipation of the expiration of its patent in mid-December of that year. However, in January of 2018, Gilead instead raised the prices of its TDF medications by 6.9 percent.

Michael Weinstein, the President of AHF, stated, “This is a lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment that they have already made billions off of and they are now trying to squeeze the well dry.” He went on to call the move “unconscionable.” Weinstein’s statement came after the AHF had filed a lawsuit against Gilead for patent manipulation in February of 2016.

It has been alleged that the reason Gilead suppressed research into the safer alternative, TAF, is to extend the profitability of TDF while it held the exclusive patent. The patent on TAF isn’t set to expire until 2022.

HIV medication litigation process

Plaintiff Philip Epstein, who suffers from bone and kidney complications as an alleged result of Viread and Atripla, may receive compensation for his medical expenses and other losses if his drug injury lawsuit is successful. As news of the complications associated with these drugs becomes increasingly widespread, it’s expected that many more HIV medication lawsuits could be filed.

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