Drugmaker says counterfeit versions of its HIV medicines ended up in patients’ hands

Associated Press/Eric Risberg

Drugmaker Gilead Sciences said that counterfeit versions of its HIV medicines ended up in the hands of patients in a lawsuit unsealed on Tuesday.

Gilead discovered that 85,247 bottles of counterfeit medicine were sold to pharmacies and patients over the past two years, Lori Mayall, head of anti-counterfeiting and brand protection at the company, said in a statement. 

The more than $250 million worth of medicine includes fake pills and genuine pills sold with falsified documents or tampered packaging. 

The company alleges that some of the drugs were bought off homeless individuals or HIV patients before being resold. The scheme included bottles of HIV medicine sometimes containing over-the-counter painkillers or antipsychotic drugs, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Gilead filed a lawsuit in July against dozens of marketers, suppliers and distributors over the counterfeit medicines. The lawsuit was unsealed on Tuesday. 

“The court has ordered that all of the parties in this case responsible for distributing the counterfeits stop selling Gilead-branded medication and we are not aware of any defendant violating this order. We therefore believe that we have successfully stopped any additional counterfeits from these defendants reaching patients,” Mayall said. 

Biktarvy and Descovy are the two HIV medicines most affected in the incident. 

The company discovered the scheme when a patient at White Cross Pharmacy in California back in Aug. 2020 reported having the wrong pills in his HIV medication, according to the lawsuit. The pharmacy then contacted Gilead. 

The pharmacy admitted they bought the medicine from Safe Chain Solutions because it was cheaper than the Gilead’s wholesaler.

Gilead seized thousands of bottles from Safe Chain Solutions and other distributors in 2021 after getting permission from a judge, The Journal noted.

The defendants in the case deny Gilead’s accusations, with Safe Chain saying that the company used abusive litigation tactics. Safe Chain also says they never knew the medications were fake. 

Tags Counterfeit consumer goods Counterfeit medications Gilead Sciences Medication Pharmaceuticals policy Pharmacy

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