Sex, Drugs, and Commercial Speech: The Contested Discourse of Truvada
Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems (2017), Volume 50, Issue 3
31 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2017
Date Written: May 15, 2017
In January 2016, Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a globally influential HIV/AIDS policy organization, urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take legal action against Gilead Sciences, manufacturer of the HIV-prophylactic medication Truvada, for violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The violations the letter enumerated were in reference to a Gilead-sponsored video advertising campaign that, per the allegations, misrepresented the proper usage regimen of Truvada. Under constitutional precedent governing commercial speech vis-à-vis pharmaceutical marketing, such misrepresentation of a drug’s constitutes “off-label” speech, a form of promotional advertising subject to criminal sanctions. This Comment explores the implications of AHF’s claims in the context of recent changes to commercial speech doctrine. It contends that should the FDA act upon the allegations contained in AHF’s letter it would require the agency to argue in favor of a significant misapplication of commercial-speech doctrine, particularly with regard to the branding provisions of the FDCA. Because the FDA continues to harden its stance on off-label use and speech, and in light of policy changes potentially encouraged by the new presidential administration, an examination of how the FDA might respond to allegations of FDCA violation is crucial. This Comment concludes by observing that the significance of this analysis is only heightened when the drug under legal scrutiny is one like Truvada — a prophylactic medication potentially able to drastically reduce the rate of HIV contraction if rendered more widely available.
Keywords: commercial speech, Truvada, PrEP, FDA, FDCA, AHF, HIV/AIDS, off-label drug use
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