July 29, 2011
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is urging pharmaceutical firms to bring down the domestic price of AIDS drugs to enable patients to access treatment programs of last resort. As of July 28, 8,871 low-income HIV/AIDS patients in 13 states were on waiting lists for AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, according to the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD). In addition to implementing waiting lists, many state ADAPs have tightened eligibility criteria, cut coverage, and capped enrollment due to economy-driven fiscal constraints and surges in demand.
"The fact that there are nearly 10,000 people who don't have access to [ADAPs] is scandalous," said Michael Weinstein, AHF's president. "Our job as advocates is to ensure that they have access on a long-term basis."
Firms such as Merck and Johnson & Johnson have responded over the years with heavier discounts, price freezes, and patient-assistance programs. Nonetheless, ADAPs have been struggling with funding shortfalls dating back to 2002.
"There's increasing demand for services but relatively stable or decreasing funding," said Murray Panner, NASTAD's deputy executive director. "At this point, it's sheer math."
AHF has conducted mass-mailings in communities surrounding the corporate headquarters of Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, and Johnson & Johnson with the aim of gaining employee support for its price-cutting campaign.
However, Panner said a task force of ADAP directors negotiated a multi-year pricing agreement last year with drug firms to ensure pricing stability. "The companies have agreed to terms above and beyond what is required of them," he said.