NYC lawmaker endorses plan to break HIV-prevention drug’s patent

By Tim Fitzsimons

Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council and one of the most prominent HIV-positive politicians in the U.S., called for the National Institutes of Health to exercise its “march-in” rights and break the patent held by Gilead Sciences to exclusively manufacture and market HIV prevention drug Truvada, or PrEP.

“As an HIV+ elected official, I have a responsibility to the activists who came before me who I believe literally saved my life, to those we have lost to the AIDS crisis, and to those who come after me to do everything in my power to end this epidemic once and for all,” Johnson said in a statement shared with NBC News. “The cost of PrEP in our country reveals something deeply rotten about our healthcare system, and the NIH needs to march in and break the patent immediately. This is life or death and there is no time to waste.”

Johnson is now one of the highest-ranking officials in the U.S. to endorse #BreakThePatent, a campaign run by PrEP4All, an HIV/AIDS activist consortium, that is pressuring the federal government to invoke a rarely used power in the Bayh-Dole Act, or the Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act, to “march-in” and remove a pharmaceutical company’s exclusive right to market a drug.