On the morning of Thursday 10th December 2015, a public action targeted specifically at big pharma profiteering from the lives of people with hepatitis C happened in central London. Activists dressed as Gilead butchers greeted participants as they arrived at the European Conference on HIV and Hepatitis Coinfection (1).
The ACT UP LONDON (2) activists were demanding Gilead and other drug companies drop the prices of the new medicines which can cure hepatitis C. The companies are charging extortionate prices – tens of thousands of pounds for pills that cost just a few hundred pounds to make (3).
Gilead were revealed last week by US congress to have sent internal emails saying “let’s hold our price higher regardless of the uproar.” Kevin Young, Gilead’s executive vice president for commercial operations, wrote to colleagues in November 2013 …”Two sincere requests…Let’s not fold to advocacy pressure in 2014. Let’s hold our position whatever competitors do or whatever the headlines” (4).
Screaming “Pills costs pennies, greed costs lives” the protesters held ‘chopped liver’ in their hands to demonstrate that drug companies were butchering the lives of hepatitis C patients by refusing to charge a fair price for the medicines.
ACT UP LONDON activist Dani Singer said – “This is an appalling disregard for human life. The profiteering of these companies is a moral outrage. We demand they drop the prices so everyone in the world who needs them can get access. If they don’t then governments must intervene to force those prices down.”
The activists are demanding access in all countries – especially middle income countries where most people with hepatitis C live. They also called on the UK government to stop rationing access to the new curative drugs and implement a strategy to eliminate hepatitis C.
ACT UP London is intensifying its campaign to elevate HCV (Hepatitis C. Virus) and HIV/AIDS awareness. Street and venue-based public actions will disrupt locations across the City of London throughout the festive season, heralding 2016 as a year of no-holds-barred activism and agitprop.
ACT UP regards cuts to services and a lack of government and pharmaceutical accountability for the escalating HCV and HIV crises, as inhumane and preventable.
dan glass, ACT UP LONDON activist, said “Britain is one of the wealthiest countries in the world but it was ranked at 28 out of 30 on a league table for healthcare services (Ref: Economist Intelligence Unit). It beggars belief that this terrible statistic is a marker for how the UK has normalised a descent into the underdevelopment of its healthcare system.”
ACT UP LONDON activist Donna Riddington said “Silence kills. ACT UP is geared-up to fight against the stigmatising of lifestyle choices and shaming, education and funding. With empathy and compassion in our hearts, ACT UP remain united in solidarity with those who hope to appeal to the humanitarian element of a multi-billion dollar drugs industry.”
For press enquiries and photos, please contact
Dan Glass / Phone 07717811747 and Dani Singer / Phone 07904 328 060
Notes to Editors / Journalists
(1) European HIV Hepatitis Co-infection (EHHC) Conference http://www.bhiva.org/EHHC2015.aspx
(2) ACT UP London is a revitalised chapter of the non-partisan international movement, founded in 1987, united in anger and committed to direct action to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. ACT UP London is a diverse group of individuals united in anger. We are committed to direct action to end the HIV pandemic. We are committed to fighting to end all inequalities and injustices that perpetuate it. We are part of the global ACT UP network. AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) is an international direct action advocacy group working to impact the lives of people with AIDS (PWAs) and the AIDS pandemic to bring about legislation, medical research and treatment and policies to ultimately bring an end to the disease by mitigating loss of health and lives.
(3) Greed-driven pricing strategy behind Gilead’s $1,000 per pill hepatitis C drug launch – http://fairpricingcoalition.org/2015/12/03/the-fair-pricing-coalition-fpc-applauds-the-wyden-grassley-us-senate-bipartisan-sovaldi-investigation-spotlighting-a-greed-driven-pricing-strategy-behind-gileads-1000-per-pill-hepatitis-c/
(4) ‘Gilead Knew Hepatitis Drug Price Was High, Senate Says’