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In an unexpected move, Gilead Sciences is challenging patents held by the federal government for using the Truvada pill to prevent HIV, a drug that has sparked controversy due to its cost and the extent to which taxpayer dollars funded crucial research.

The drug maker said it asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to examine the patents, which AIDS activists have argued would entitle the government to collect royalties from Gilead and use the funds to combat the virus. However, a Gilead official said the company refused to agree to a license in talks with the Department of Health and Human Services over the past three years.

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