November 19, 2012
The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, an organization of HIV/AIDS patient advocates, announced on November 15 that it intends to put a measure on San Francisco's 2013 ballot, encouraging the city to negotiate for the lowest possible cost for the prescription drugs that it purchases. San Francisco residents need to collect 9,703 valid signatures on a petition for the measure, "Stop Runaway Drug Pricing," to be placed on the city's ballot in November 2013. AIDS Healthcare Foundation officials stated that signature gathering would begin the weekend of November 17, with organizers having until mid-May 2013 to compile enough signatures.
San Francisco law presently authorizes the city's Public Health Department to use outside companies to negotiate prices for prescription drugs. This new measure would change that city's policy by allowing San Francisco to directly negotiate with drug manufacturers. AIDS Healthcare Foundation spokesman Ged Kenslea declared that governments are the largest purchaser of pharmaceutical products and have the ability to say no to companies that are charging for drugs to treat AIDS, cancer, and other illnesses, but they have not done that. Dr. Lisha Wilson, Bay Area Clinical Medical Director at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, cites the drug Stribild, a four-in-one AIDS treatment combination drug produced by Gilead Sciences, Inc., as an example of a drug that is extremely high-priced; it costs $28,500 annually. That is more than most AIDS patients earn in a year, according to Wilson. Officials at Gilead were not immediately available for comment. One community activist, who has lived with HIV/AIDS for more than 19 years, worries about being priced out of the market for the medicine he needs, saying that one day, he may not be able to afford it.