Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"I think it's important that we notice here that we the public, we the people, developed this drug, we paid for this drug," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said during a House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

'Spoiler: Because Australia Has Universal Healthcare': Watch Ocasio-Cortez Ask Pharma CEO Why HIV Drug Costs $8 Overseas But $1,780 in the US

"We the public, we the people, developed this drug, we paid for this drug. There's no reason this should be $2,000 a month. People are dying because of it."

Jake Johnson

During a House hearing on Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked the CEO of one of America's largest pharmaceutical companies a simple but crucial question: Why does a life-saving HIV drug that costs $8 a month in Australia have a $2,000 price tag in the U.S.?

Gilead chief executive Daniel O'Day declined to comment on the low price of Truvada for PrEP in Australia, but said the reason the cost is close to $2,000—"the current list price is $1,780," he said—in the United States is because the drug has "patent protection."

As the Washington Post reported in March, the development of Truvada as a treatment for HIV was "almost fully funded by U.S. taxpayers."

The U.S. government patented the treatment in 2015, according to the Post, but has "opted not to file an infringement suit to enforce" the patent even as Gilead—which argues the government patent is invalid—rakes in billions of dollars in profits from Truvada.

Ocasio-Cortez highlighted these facts during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Thursday.

"I think it's important that we notice here that we the public, we the people, developed this drug, we paid for this drug, we led and developed all of the grounding patents to create PrEP, and then that patent has been privatized despite the fact that that patent is owned by the public," said Ocasio-Cortez. "We refuse to enforce it."

"There's no reason this should be $2,000 a month," Ocasio-Cortez added. "People are dying because of it. We own the intellectual property for it. People are dying for no reason. For no reason. We developed this drug."

In a tweet following Thursday's hearing, Ocasio Cortez answered her own question on why Truvada's price is $8 in Australia.

"Spoiler: Because Australia has universal healthcare," wrote the New York congresswoman.

The reason the United States hasn't joined the rest of the industrialized world in establishing a universal healthcare system is not individual drug company executives like O'Day, said Ocasio-Cortez.

"I don't blame you. I blame us. I blame this body," Ocasio-Cortez said during the hearing. "Because every single developed country in the world guarantees healthcare as a right except us. Except the United States. Because we can't get it together. Because we don't have the fortitude to kick pharmaceutical lobbyists [out of] our congressional offices."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Democrats, Progressive Groups Push DOJ to Publish Database of 'Corporate Lawbreaking'

"The Corporate Crime Database Act will bring transparency to the corporate crime crisis so that the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies can better reckon with this greed-driven menace," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·


As Corporations Enjoy Record-High Profits, Experts Urge Congress to 'Rein Them In'

"Today's record corporate profits mirror what we have been hearing on earnings call after earnings call: Corporations are gleefully reporting that their strategy to burden families with unnecessary price hikes is working."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Egregious': PFAS Firefighting Foam Spills at Notorious Red Hill Naval Facility in Hawaii

While officials said there is no evidence that drinking water was contaminated, the incident generated further local frustration with the closing fuel storage complex.

Jessica Corbett ·


House Passes Paid Sick Leave for Railway Workers Despite Opposition of 207 Republicans

"Now let's get it through the Senate," said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who led the fight to add seven days of paid sick leave to a White House-brokered contract that failed to provide any to railroad workers.

Kenny Stancil ·


DeSantis-Backed Education Purge Begins After School Board Takeovers in Florida

"The new playbook of total ideological control is in full swing," said one free expression advocate.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo