Gilead Sciences Inc. asked a California court that various personal injury claims against them be dismissed. According to the Los Angeles Sentinel, Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl has denied this request. Gilead is accused of knowingly withholding safer medications that they were aware of to maintain high profits from their TDF medications that were still patented. The tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) based products are believed to cause kidney and bone damage among those using it to treat HIV. Michael Lujano, one of the plaintiffs, says the company demonstrated “disregard for its patients' health in order to reap outsized profits.”
What is Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)?
HIV is a condition that hurts the human immune system by harming white blood cells that are needed to fight infections. It is estimated that 1.1 million Americans are living with the virus. Approximately 15% of those infected are not aware of it. At least 26,000 new HIV cases are diagnosed per year. In 2016, nearly 39,000 individuals contracted HIV. Men who have sexual involvement with other men are the most commonly infected group.
The allegations state that Gilead knew of the harmful side effects of TDF by 2001. The company was said to be aware that TAF, an alternative, was much less harmful. They reportedly did not disclose this knowledge, largely because of tremendous TDF product sales.
The FDA reportedly had sent warnings to the company twice regarding their marketing practices since 2001. TDF-based products may increase the risk of bone fractures by up to 40%. Over 25,000 people developed bone and kidney problems that they attribute to TDF.
One plaintiff who took TDF was diagnosed with w/ osteopenia & osteoporosis at the age of only 35. Another plaintiff developed a rarely seen kidney problem known as Fanconi syndrome at age 59. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has remained committed to funding the suits in order to hold the company responsible for their decisions.
The TDF drugs are known to cause losses of bone density and kidney conditions that include the following:
Some of the commonly seen bone injuries included fractures and osteoporosis. Kidney problems include impaired ability to function, acute renal failure and tubular dysfunction. Gilead is accused of knowing the harm that these products cause. An estimated 6,000 broken bones are potentially related to their use. In 2015, the company profited an estimated $18 billion.
The class action lawsuit includes plaintiffs from California, Louisiana, and Washington D.C. Attorneys for the plaintiffs stated that Gilead demonstrated a “perverse motive” to maximize profits and expand their market share. Another remarked that these “giant corporations feel they are above the law” at times. They are looking forward to moving the cases into the courts.
Impact on Minorities
One of the civil rights attorneys involved explained that Gilead's business practices have impacted a disproportional number of minorities. Black men and women are among the most commonly diagnosed in recent years. He explains that the company simply placed “profits over people” in their actions.