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International News

Fuzeon Is Priced by Roche

February 25, 2003

Roche said yesterday that it was setting a European price of 52 euros a day, or more than $20,000 a year, for its new drug intended to treat AIDS patients who no longer benefit from current medicines.

The cost of treatment for Fuzeon is well above that of other HIV medicines. It could potentially double the prescription costs for HIV-infected patients, because tests show Fuzeon is most effective when used in combination with two other drugs.

William E. Arnold, chair of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program Working Group, said he was surprised by the price that Roche announced. "We were anticipating an expensive drug, but not this expensive," Arnold said. "We are all worried about the ability to pay." About 50 percent of the cost of treating US AIDS patients is paid by Medicaid. An additional 30 percent of patients get their drugs through state-run drug assistance programs, which are largely funded by the federal government.

Though the price has not yet been set for the United States, David Reddy, head of Roche's HIV products, said it would be in line with the European price. Drugs in the United States typically cost 5-25 percent more than those in European countries, which often place price caps on medicines.

Fuzeon is being aimed at the estimated 30-40 percent of patients with drug-resistant viruses. Up to 78 percent of patients in North America and Europe are believed to be resistant to one or more HIV drug.

Fuzeon, developed by North Carolina-based Trimeris, blocks the virus's access to healthy immune cells. Because it is a protein, it must be injected twice daily beneath the skin, making it the first injectable HIV drug.

Reddy said the high cost was warranted because of the complicated way it is manufactured and because of the $600 million the company has spent testing and producing the drug. Roche must go through 106 manufacturing steps to produce the active drug substance in Fuzeon -- some 10 times what is required to make a traditional AIDS drug.

By the end of the year, Roche expects up to 15,000 patients to be injecting the new drug.

Back to other CDC news for February 25, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
New York Times
02.25.03; Alison Langley; Melody Petersen

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.