Gilead Sciences gets a makeover
We wanted to expose the greed and profit-driven logic of the pharmaceutical industry telling the story of Hepatitis C treatment which is priced out of reach of the majority of people who need it.
Hepatitis C is a severe blood-borne disease which currently impacts 70 million people worldwide. That’s almost double the number of people who are living with HIV. Yet there is little public knowledge neither about the disease nor the crisis in curing it. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set 2030 as the goal for elimination of the disease entirely.
This would be an achievable goal if the drugs were not so expensive.
The medication, Sofosbuvir was originally developed by a small startup called Pharmasset and then bought and patented by Gilead Sciences. It cures 95% of patients who take it within just 2 months. A so-called “wonderdrug.” The problem is that a corporation, its shareholders and political friends are controlling access to this drug. The pricing is set not by need nor benefit to the world, but on how much profit can be made in the twenty years the patent holds. As if it were not a life-saving medicine, but the next cool lifestyle product or fashion item, we thought.
The cure for hipsters
So our ideas was to reveal this by applying the language and style of lifestyle-advertising to the medicine, to produce a very good looking, if darkly ironic marketing campaign in the name of Gilead Sciences. We produced a new pill bottle design, a slick website, a branded clothesline and a monthly credit scheme to help people who can’t afford the price-tag.
We then went to “Leading London to Hepatitis C Elimination”, a health conference sponsored by Gilead, but strangely lacking any item on the agenda to address the pricing issue. We solved this by showing up with some models wearing the Just C clothing, and hijacking the stage, as a representative of Gilead to launch our innovative credit scheme “Debt or Death.”
Gilead responded by telling journalists our ideas were “unethical” and beyond their “wildest nightmares”. Pretty hypocritical coming from a company sitting back and watching people die because they can’t afford their medicine.