Bay Area’s Gilead sent envelopes revealing patients were on HIV drugs, lawsuit claims

Foster City pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences, lately
in the news
for its possible coronavirus-treatment drug
remdesivir, sent patients taking HIV drugs letters in envelopes
that revealed they were on the medications, a new lawsuit seeking
class action claims.

Two men, from Alabama and Indiana, said in the suit that they
were among hundreds of patients taking Gilead’s HIV drugs and
enrolled in a company patient-support program. But despite the
program’s enrollment form saying “confidentiality is of primary
importance to us,” Gilead in April sent the men, and others in
the program, letters in envelopes showing “HIV Prevention Team”
atop the return address, the suit filed Thursday in U.S. District
Court in San Francisco alleged.

“The words ‘HIV Prevention Team’ were in a larger font
than the mailing address, causing it to stand out in relation to
the address,” the suit seeking class action status claimed.

Gilead did not immediately respond to a request for comment on
the lawsuit’s allegations.

People with HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — as well as
people at risk for HIV infection and patients taking drugs to
prevent infection face “extreme stigma,” the suit alleged.
Gilead, the suit claimed, “carelessly, recklessly, negligently,
and impermissibly revealed confidential HIV-related information of
patients who were prescribed Gilead medications, including to their
family, friends, roommates, landlords, neighbors, mail carriers,
and complete strangers.”

The plaintiff from Alabama “is careful to avoid disclosing his
s****l orientation or s****l practices with others and has not
disclosed his s****l orientation to his family,” the suit
claimed. To keep Gilead mail from going to his home, he gave the
company his workplace address, the suit said.

“His workplace has a mailroom and employs people to sort mail.
He was appalled when he walked into the mail room and found the
envelope with the ‘HIV Prevention Team’ return address,’” the
suit alleged. “The envelope was accessible to anybody who came
into the mail room.”

The Indiana plaintiff “is extremely guarded about his
privacy,” the suit claimed. “He is careful to avoid disclosing
his s****l orientation or s****l practices with others. He was
appalled when he received the HIV Prevention Team Letter as it
revealed in plain view that he is concerned with HIV prevention.
(He) feels vulnerable and is worried about who may have seen the
mail.”

The suit cited a $17 million settlement paid by health insurance
firm Aetna after more than 12,000 people it insured, who were
taking HIV drugs, were in 2017 sent a letter that could be
partially read through the envelope’s window. It also cited a
$4.4 million settlement paid by CVS over letters sent to 6,000
people in 2017 that showed “HIV” through the envelope
window.

Related Articles

“Gilead easily could have avoided the disclosure of … private
information by using a return address that did not identify the
sender as the HIV Prevention Team,” the suit claimed.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages, and class-action
status for the suit, to bring in hundreds of others they allege
received the “HIV Prevention Team” letter.

Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Bay Area’s Gilead sent envelopes revealing patients were on
HIV drugs, lawsuit claims