Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders have written an open letter to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) accusing US pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences Inc of “corporate misconduct” over its actions relating to the development of its anti-HIV drug “Descovy”.

The pair are demanding that the USPTO reject Gilead’s request for a patent extension for the drug. They allege that Gilead intentionally delayed developing the medication in order to maximize profit generated by its predecessor, Truvada (which was also made by Gilead, and which, it has been alleged, caused damage to patients’ teeth, bones and kidneys) despite knowing that Truvada’s successor “was likely to be safer”. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez contend that Gilead had been aware for years that Descovy would carry fewer health risks, but “failed to fulfil its legal obligation to disclose its true reason for halting the development of [Truvada] … to the USPTO” because it told the USPTO only that it ceased Truvada development only because it was “unlikely to be differentiated from existing drugs”.

The letter continues, “If Gilead’s monopoly is allowed to continue, it will reap a profit while Americans suffer needlessly. Gilead’s behavior was deceitful and amoral. Corporate misconduct must not be rewarded by the U.S government through extending a government-granted monopoly on this medicine that is likely worth tens of billions of dollars”.

The matter now lies with the USPTO and, by extension, the Trump Administration itself.

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