Business briefs: Roche, Gilead

An anonymous complaint to UK industry self-policing arm PCMPA (Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority) alleges Roche employees behaved inappropriately while attending an overseas medical conference. The complainant alleged that “two very senior Roche personnel” supplied round after round of shots to a delegation of doctors, and that the alcohol “flowed like hot lava, unstoppably.” Roche responded that “Staff did not go to the bar with any health professionals nor did they arrange to meet any.” The panel found no evidence that the Roche staffers “had provided any hospitality to UK health professionals as alleged” and so found no violation.

In Gilead's Q4 earnings call, CFO Robin Washington said intellectual property for its new hepatitis C compound “is domiciled in Ireland,” which, The Wall Street Journal reported, could effectively cut Gilead's tax rate to by 5-7%, due to an Irish policy which exempts income from taxes on patent royalties. With analysts forecasting worldwide sales of $7 billion a year for Gilead – this off-shore move could mean an additional $500 million a year in profit for blockbuster hopeful sofosbuvir (AKA PSI-7977). The AIDS Healthcare Foundation labeled Gilead a “tax-supported tax evader.” AHF president Michael Weinstein roared: “This latest move should come as no surprise as Gilead has continually pursed price hikes and exploited patent loopholes to maximize earnings on its lifesaving HIV/AIDS Drugs … by charging government-funded programs exorbitantly high prices that limit access.”