Safer HIV Medicine Was Shelved in Favor of Profitable Alternative That Causes Kidney and Bone Disease

Pharmaceutical company Gilead had developed a safer alternative to tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), a drug used to prevent and treat HIV. TDF, although effective in HIV treatment, was found to have dangerous side effects on the bones and kidneys of patients. The Los Angeles Times reported that development of the less toxic drug, tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF), was delayed due to its reduced profitability.

TDF, originally branded as Viread, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2001. It was also sold as Truvada, Atripla, Stribild, and Complera. The pill is shown to improve the overall quality of life of HIV patients; yet the drug is only effective in high doses, which can contribute to kidney issues and decreased bone density.

In April 2001, before TDF was approved by the FDA, Gilead published a report on TAF. TAF was shown to be more effective in HIV treatment and prevention than TDF, meaning it could be administered in smaller, less-toxic doses. Human clinical trials that exhibited successful results were not published until several years later, and Gilead continued to secretly develop TAF despite announcing it was shelving the drug in 2004.

Meanwhile, patients were still being prescribed TDF and suffering the side effects while Gilead profited. TAF was approved by the FDA in 2015 and released as Genvoya, Odefsey, and Descovy.  

Gilead is now facing legal action based on claims that their delay of TAF development was intentionally negligent and malicious, driven by exclusivity to the drug and higher profits. HIV patients, who could have used TAF, instead were forced to continually take TDF — a drug that was disrupting their kidney function and contributing to bone density loss for years. The dangerous side effects of TDF were also downplayed by Gilead, distributing misinformation to doctors and their patients.

If you or a loved one were prescribed a TDF-based medicine as HIV prevention or treatment, and suffered kidney- and bone-related side effects as a result, contact Kershaw, Cook & Talley to discover your options. To schedule a free consultation with our attorneys, please call (916) 520-6639 or use our message form.


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