Two of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains, CVS and Rite Aid, have sued pharmaceutical giant, Gilead, for engaging in a “multifaceted scheme to suppress and delay” generic rivals of Gilead’s patented HIV medications, FiercePharma reported. 

The new lawsuit, filed last month in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, also names Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) and Teva as defendants. CVS and Rite Aid accuse the defendants of profiting from illegal reverse payment deals that centered around Gilead’s HIV medications, including Truvada and Descovy.  

Gilead has a virtual monopoly on HIV drugs. The drug giant either holds patents to the HIV medications or owns the exclusive technology licensing for them. On September 30, 2020, the patents for two of the main active ingredients in Truvada expired, opening the door for a less expensive, generic version of the drug to come to market. 

Truvada was approved for HIV-1 PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) in 2012. Descovy, a nearly-identical drug to Truvada, was approved in 2019, one year before the patent expired for Truvada. 

Critics of Gilead’s business tactics accuse the drug giant of using its HIV drug monopoly to suppress the release of generic HIV drugs while keeping drug prices artificially high. Because of these alleged business practices, CVS and Rite Aid claim in their suit that drug buyers are collectively paying hundreds of millions of dollars more. 

Teva is named as a co-defendant because it allegedly benefitted from Gilead’s scheme to delay generic versions of HIV drugs. The move by Gilead to stymie other company’s attempts to introduce generic HIV drugs to market positioned Teva as the front-runner to “launch copycats” of Gilead’s patented HIV medications, FiercePharma suggested. 

In 2019, Gilead was accused in a class action lawsuit of collaborating with Bristol-Myers and Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen to keep certain ingredients in HIV “cocktail” (combination) medications patented, thereby keeping prices high and squashing any generic competition.