DeSantis Says He Would Sue the Drug Company Gilead for Trying to Keep People Alive

I’m serious, you just have to carry through with a little bit of logic. (I know Governor DeSantis is opposed to logic, but this is for the rest of the country.

Governor DeSantis is on the warpath against whatever he decides is “woke.” DeSantis decided that it was woke when Anheuser-Busch, signed a contract with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender influencer, to promote Bud Light, one of the beers it markets. DeSantis joined with other right-wingers to push a boycott of Bud Light.

The boycott was effective in that it had a measurable impact on the sales of Bud Light. Now, DeSantis is calling for the Florida State Board of Administration to sue Anheuser-Busch because its decision to contract with a transgender influencer lowered its stock price and thereby hurt Florida’s public employee pension fund. (Never mind that Governor DeSantis played a big role in pushing the boycott that hurt sales.)

DeSantis’ basis for the lawsuit is the claim that by concerning itself with something other than profits, the management of Anheuser-Busch hurt its stockholders. He says that companies should only be concerned about maximizing profit, not doing “woke” things like making deals with transgender influencers.

Okay, we’ll ignore the fact that Anheuser-Busch’s management may actually have thought they were maximizing profits when they signed the deal with Mulvaney. After all, there are a significant number of people who are transgender, have friends or family members who are transgender, or just think that transgender people should be able to be accepted as normal, and think it’s cool that Anheuser-Busch agrees.

Maybe it’s not fair to blame Anheuser-Busch’s management for not recognizing the fact that an ambitious Florida governor thinks that his path to the presidency depends on convincing Republican primary voters that he is more right-wing than Donald Trump. But, we’ll leave that issue aside.

DeSantis made it clear that he thinks companies should only maximize profit and be subject to shareholder lawsuits if they do anything other than maximizing profits. So how does this get us to suing Gilead?

According to a New York Times article this week, Gilead may have delayed bringing an HIV drug onto the market, because it didn’t want to jeopardize the sales of its blockbuster HIV drug Truvada. It wanted to delay bringing the new drug on the market because it wanted Truvada to get the full benefit of its patent monopoly and to only introduce the new drug as Truvada’s patent was about to expire. This would then allow it to benefit from the full length of patent protection for its new drug.

The newer drug would have been safer for patients, since it posed less risk of kidney and bone damage. Gilead is now being sued, based on this allegation, by patients who were harmed by Truvada.

Gilead denies it was motivated by profit considerations in the timing of its introduction of the Truvada replacement. The article tells readers:

“Gilead’s top lawyer, Deborah Telman said in a statement that the company’s ‘research and development decisions have always been, and continue to be, guided by our focus on delivering safe and effective medicines for the people who prescribe and use them.’”

Okay, so now we have Gilead’s top lawyer asserting that the company is not being run to maximize profit, but rather is “guided by our focus on delivering safe and effective medicines for the people who prescribe and use them.”

That sounds dangerously woke. Seems like Gilead is crying out for a lawsuit from Mr. DeSantis. Their top lawyer is openly claiming that the company might be jeopardizing profits, and thereby giving lower returns to shareholders, because it is concerned with people’s health.

Presumably, Mr. DeSantis will be pushing his lawsuit against Gilead any day now.

This first appeared on Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog.  

Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC.