All around the U.S., there is a new grassroots movement to change the healthcare rules. This is the chance to offer universal healthcare and ensure people stay healthy, but it’s going to take people fighting policies and address corporate power.
There should be no reason corporate American decides who lives and who dies. With any progress, it’s going to come down to breaking the norm that allows corporations to profit from people’s pain. This is especially true of the HIV/AIDS situation in America. If corporate America continues to have a say in the HIV/AIDS crisis, the epidemic will never truly end.
A look at today’s HIV/AIDS epidemic state, the cure for the disease is more about politics than actual science. Thanks to taxpayer funding, research of the U.S. government helped to create the PrEP drug, which is a prevention method in which to decrease the number of people to transmit HIV through sex. PrEP involves taking a combination of pills every day.
While public funding is supposed to be for public benefit, the problem is that the opposite is happening. The government’s inaction for providing universal access is ensuring corporate influence over who does or does not take PrEP and who will and who will not contract HIV.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that over one million people should be using Truvada, the PrEP drug that can reduce the rate of HIV transmission. However, due to the expense, many are not on the medication – roughly 500,000 blacks and 300,000 Latinos. This is on top of all the other choices people are forced to make, such as buying medicines or food.
Corporate America should not be allowed to raid people’s bank accounts for important, life-saving treatment such as PrEP. The majority of HIV drugs have been focused on treating the disease, not preventing it. Still, drug executives are focused on what they’ve always been focused on… making money. They prefer to let people die because they feel people don’t have the power to stop them from denying the necessary care and treatments needed.
However, should people ever get together and raise their voices and demand justice, it could help to overcome the problem of AIDS, sexuality, race, money, poverty and gender identity.
Gilead, the pharmaceutical company that produces Truvada, makes $3 billion a year. Generics are available in countries around the world, selling for $60 a year. However, Gilead has successfully lobbied to keep these genetics out of the U.S. market, ensuring that prices remain high – around $20,000 a year.
It’s essential that Gilead and other pharmaceutical companies are stopped from lobbying politicians to block these life-saving medications. Hopefully, with the help of the Lower Drug Prices Now campaign and the general public, this can happen.
Gilead is well-known for partaking in drug giveaway announcements, which are ploys to deny access to those who need it. The U.S. government officials recently filed a lawsuit against Gilead for its profiting off the government-owned patents (infringing on those rights) and demanded royalties for the infringement. Drug companies don’t want the public knowing that government funding has helped with FDA approval of 210 drugs between 2010 and 2016.
When talking about HIV and the systematic discrimination of blacks and other people of color, it’s vital to think big and bold.
Drug ads are more prominent than political ads, and without public funding, these drugs would never have been developed or advertised. Therefore, it’s important they are made aware that it’s in their best interest to serve the public’s interest. And, this begins by challenging the PR stunts and force the different media platforms to stop promoting them.
It would also mean increasing the power to invoke the dormant Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 that permits government march-in rights to produce and sell crucial medications when drug manufacturers refused to recognize a consumer health need. Despite the overwhelming calls for aggressive actions, few politicians do anything because they’ve sided with those drug manufacturers.
With the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, the government is able to negotiate for lower prices on hundreds of drugs people who have Medicare and provide it to those with private insurance. The bill would have drug companies answer for the charging of any person beyond the agreed-upon rate – even if the insurance plans differ.
Despite the advantage, lobbyists are working hard to ensure the bill is defeated, and the Republican leadership has stated that it’s not going to pass the Senate.
Real change won’t happen until it becomes toxic for politicians in any party to back. Drug companies should be held liable for their actions and be a liability to politicians. It should not be a way for them to gauge the American people, especially for drugs like PrEP.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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