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Didn't We Patent That?

The US federal government has filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco-based drug company Gilead, "on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services" in an ongoing dispute over patents related to the HIV prevention drug Truvada, The Washington Post reports.

"A rift between the Centers for Disease Control and pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences ruptured further Wednesday when the Trump administration sued Gilead in US District Court, asserting that Gilead made billions of dollars on HIV prevention therapy while repeatedly ignoring government patents," Christopher Rowland explains.

The suit comes after a collaboration between the company and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention soured when Gilead allegedly "refused to recognize CDC patents for an HIV prevention called Truvada for [pre-exposure prophylaxis]."

Those patents were awarded to the government in 2015 after CDC investigators found that Truvada could prevent HIV infection in animal models, pointing to a potential prophylactic role that extended beyond treatment in HIV-infected individuals. 

"Crucially, the lawsuit alleges that the government owns the PrEP patent for both Truvada and Descovy, Gilead's next-generation PrEP approved last month, setting up the possibility that both HIV prevention drugs could see drastic price reductions," Tim Fitzsimons notes in a feature on the lawsuit and related PrEP history for NBC News.

Although Gilead has been criticized for Truvada's high price, the company has committed to donating millions of bottles of the drug annually to support the Trump administration's HIV/AIDS eradication plan, The Washington Post's Rowland reports, noting that "HHS and Gilead said Wednesday the dispute over the patent would not [affect] the pledge."

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Catherine Ho reports that Gilead "said the government patents are invalid and has sought to resolve the issue before the board that adjudicates patent disputes."

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