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.

'No More Hiding': Sanders Says Make GOP Vote on Popular Policies

"The American people have a right to know where their senators stand on the most important issues impacting their lives."

Jake Johnson ·


Sanders Demands End to Medicare Premium Hike From Alzheimer's Drug

Biogen's original price for the controversial drug, he argues, "is the perfect example of why Medicare should be negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Monumental Victory' as Biden Cancels Boundary Waters Mining Leases

Rep. Betty McCollum called the administration's decision "a rejection of the deeply flawed and politically motivated process under the Trump administration."

Brett Wilkins ·


Rights Groups Demand Hearings on the 'Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act'

"The longer Congress waits," warned one advocate, "the stronger and more dangerous this industry will become."

Kenny Stancil ·


Democrats Urge Biden to Abandon Dangerous Trump Policies on Nuclear Weapons

With the Nuclear Posture Review, say congressional lawmakers, the president can ensure "future generations can finally be free from the nuclear sword of Damocles that hangs over all our heads."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo