Sanders Asks VA to Break Patents on Gilead and AbbVie Hep C Drugs

The ongoing debate over the cost of prescription drugs took another twist as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) has asked the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to use emergency powers to break – or override – the patents on high-priced hepatitis C medicines sold by several drug makers, including Gilead Sciences.


The prices have caused a firestorm as both public and private payers complain the treatments are straining their budgets. Sanders notes the VA stopped enrolling veterans who need treatment for hepatitis C due to budget constraints. The agency has already reallocated $400 million on hepatitis C drugs, but needs additional funding.

“I cannot think of another situation where the government-use provision [of the law that allows the VA to break the patents] should be applied,” Sanders wrote in a letter to Robert McDonald, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary. “Our nation’s veterans cannot, and should not, be denied treatment while drug companies rake in billions of dollars in profits.”

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