Gilead Sciences “recklessly and illegally” disclosed certain consumers’ HIV-related information by mailing material for its Advancing Access Program in envelopes that displayed the words “HIV Prevention Team,” a proposed class action lawsuit claims.
Filed in California, the 24-page suit says Gilead’s Advancing Access Program provides support and a co-pay coupon card to eligible patients prescribed the company’s HIV prevention medications. Gilead offers a medication regimen known as pre-exposure prophylaxis that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have credited as “highly effective” in preventing HIV and reducing the risk of acquisition, the complaint adds.
Those who enroll in Gilead’s program must fill out a form providing the company with their mailing address, insurance provider, healthcare prescriber and diagnosis. According to the suit, this form contains a section that relays patient confidentiality is “of primary importance to us,” stating that all patient information will remain confidential.
In or around April 2020, however, Gilead’s “HIV Prevention Team” sent the pseudonymous plaintiffs and proposed class members a one-page letter titled “The Latest from Gilead Sciences,” the case says. The issue, the lawsuit charges, is that the letter was sent in an envelope that stated the recipient’s name and address and the words “HIV Prevention Team” in large red font.
Gilead’s dissemination of envelopes reading “HIV Prevention Team” is careless, reckless and negligent, the case alleges, adding that those prescribed the defendant’s medications may have had their confidential information exposed to any number of parties—even complete strangers—without their consent. Gilead’s conduct is especially egregious given what the case says is a stigma associated with HIV since the early 1980s.
To ensure citizens feel safe to come forward and be tested and treated for the disease, most states have laws in place to protect the confidentiality of an individual’s HIV-related information, the case continues. Despite the privacy statutes and protections offered by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), thereckless disclosureof patients’ private medical information throughcommercial mailingshas continued, the lawsuit says.
“Plaintiffs and Class Members have suffered and will continue to suffer embarrassment, humiliation, frustration, anxiety, emotional distress, and fear, and are at increased risk for losing employment, housing, access to health care, and even violence or other trauma as a result of the disclosure of their HIV-related information,” the complaint reads.
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