For Immediate Release Friday, April 1, 2016
‘We are not fooled’: Global health activists confront pharmaceutical industry over excessive medicine prices
This afternoon at 4pm, seven naked people with “#PharmaGreedKills” written on their backs stormed Gilead HQ1, whilst people did a blockade on the streets of Holborn, Central London, as part of a globally co-ordinated action against ‘pharmaceutical greed’.
On 1st April 2016 activists across the world are protesting against the greed that blocks access to essential medicines. April Fools’ Day is an appropriate day to highlight both the extortionate price of medicines and the lack of transparency around research and development (R&D) costs.
The latest drugs for Hepatitis C are two drugs called Sovaldi and Harvoni. List prices for Sovaldi (35,000 GBP) and Harvoni (39,000 GBP) are seen to be way out of reach for most people, with NHS England saying that “if Sovaldi was used by every patient in its licensing remit, the cost would top £1bn and it says this is ‘prohibitive’ and NICE said it “could not be considered a cost-effective use of NHS resources”. 2
Jake Chambers, ACT UP London3 said “We stand here naked, completely vulnerable, a state in which the current system leaves millions around the world. We also stand with bareness and honesty, and we demand that drug companies be exposed in the same way.
Duncan Hamilton from ‘C Positively’4 said “As someone who had to go through interferon treatment because of the UK Government and Gilead being unable to negotiate a reasonable price for Harvoni; I have suffered first hand for this sort of disagreement. This is people’s health you’re holding to ransom and the prices Gilead have agreed with the government means that HCV won’t be eradicated in the UK or anywhere else any time soon unless pharmaceutical companies take the moral high ground and put lives before profit.”
At any given time, about half of all people in the UK are on prescription medication. 90% of these prescriptions are for ‘branded’ medication, the bill for which is a painful £5.8 billion pounds. The NHS is not allowed to produce patent drugs itself or source ‘generic’ versions from other suppliers5.
Dani Singer from ACT UP LONDON said “The NHS is obliged to pay the exorbitant prices set by an oligarchy of pharmaceutical giants. The public won’t be taken for fools by Big Pharma anymore! Globally, more than two billion people do not have regular access to the critical medicines they need. This is one in three of the world’s population. Every year, 10 million people die from diseases because drug pricing blocks access to effective treatments. One reason for this is the high cost of medicines under patent protection.”
“#PharmaGreedKills” Global Health Activist Demands
- Reduce the price of hepatitis C medications (Harvoni and Sovaldi) by 90% to provide affordable treatment for everyone who needs it
- Publicly commit to developing a plan for simple, immediate, and universal access to HCV cures by working transparently with government and affected communities to develop such a plan
- Ensure access for high-risk groups, including prisoners, people who inject drugs, sex workers, and disadvantaged communities around the world.
- Use a more sustainable production and distribution system for drugs based on maximized public health impacts.
- Publicly commit to substantial discounts for all of Gilead’s HIV treatments for any jurisdiction seeking to end HIV as an epidemic, as Gilead did in New York.
- Commit to working with domestic and foreign governments, international health and advocacy organizations, and affected communities, to set prices that are affordable and will ensure access to all those who need them around the world.
Phone Lisa Cummings 07340 821150
Dan Glass 07717811747
Jake Chambers 07792241516
Notes to Editors
The protest is coordinated by a coalition of over 25 health advocacy groups from 6 continents with demonstrations being held outside offices of Pfizer, Gilead, Roche, the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
- 280 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EE
- ACT UP London is a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to creative action to end the HIV pandemic. Everyone is Welcome. We are part of the global ACT UP network. actuplondon.wordpress.com
- UK-based Hepatitis C patient group