Patients sue Gilead over alleged delays in developing safer HIV medication

Two California men filed a lawsuit against drugmaker Gilead Sciences May 8, claiming they were harmed because the pharmaceutical company intentionally delayed the development of a safer version of tenofovir — its lead HIV medication, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The lawsuit alleges Gilead executives knew the company's scientists developed a less-toxic form of tenofovir as early as 2000. Instead of pursuing the safer alternative, the company hid the medication's risks to continue profiting. Further, the lawsuit claims by shelving the safer alternative, the company extended the number of years where patents shielded the HIV treatment from competition, which allowed it to charge high prices.

The HIV medication poses risks to patients' kidneys and bones. The company's sales team is now urging physicians to switch patients to new drugs to reduce potential harm. 

The lawsuit claims HIV patients suffered from as many as 10 years of "additional accumulated kidney and bone toxicity" as the company kept the safer version on a shelf in its lab.

"A company I trusted with my life took advantage of that trust by misrepresenting the side effects," said Michael Lujano, one of the plaintiffs, according to the LA Times.  "Gilead shelved a far safer drug … simply to increase its long-term profits."

The two men filed a parallel case that seeks class action status for patients who took the medication from Oct. 26, 2001, until the present.

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