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Nationwide Halloween Call-In Will Urge Pharmaceutical Companies To Lower Costs Of Life Saving Drugs For PWA's

October 29, 1996

Background Information

In the last year, many treatments have become available that have the potential of substantially improving the standard of care for many hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV. The concept of combination therapy and the introduction of the protease inhibitors have created important new reasons for hope in our community. Unfortunately, myriad dysfunctions in America's health care delivery system have conspired to make these new therapies, and the care necessary to administer them properly, unavailable to an ever growing percentage of people with HIV disease.

This year, historic collaborations built on aggressive advocacy by members of Congress, federal, state and local officials, AIDS advocates, and the pharmaceutical industry have created new opportunities for improving access to care by working together towards common goals. They have prevented the block granting of Medicaid -- the provider of health care to the majority of people with AIDS, and improved access to new therapies through increased appropriations for the Ryan White CARE Act, the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, and through advocacy that has created access to combination therapy with protease inhibitors to Medicaid recipients and to patients receiving care through the Veteran's Administration.

Unfortunately, these achievements are dwarfed by growing problems that make true access to care a growing nightmare for all patients with chronic disease across the country. And each of these problems is exacerbated by the breathtakingly high prices of AIDS drugs, especially the protease inhibitors. In the last two years, for example, the price for basic anti-viral therapy has risen from an average of $2,500 a year for a single drug to $12,000 - $20,000 for an average marketbasket of drugs that rise in price depending on disease stage.

While the pharmaceutical industry has been willing to help with many problems, especially problems that lead to the expansion of formularies or increased funding for programs that purchase drugs, they have refused to take steps to lower the costs of their drugs, and in at least one case -- Glaxo-Wellcome -- has raised prices in the face of a burgeoning public health crisis.

AIDS Action has worked in coalition with other AIDS advocacy organizations including the Treatment Action Group, Project Inform, the Human Rights Campaign, the AIDS Treatment Data Network, the AIDS Policy Center for Children, Youth and Families, five chapters of ACT-UP and other organizations to support a Halloween Phone and Fax Call-In to four companies regarding the pricing for their drugs.

ACTION: Call the CEO's listed below and use the specific messages outlined below to demand that they do their part in making their products more affordable and available to all who need them!

Glaxo Wellcome:

Glaxo-Wellcome has raised the price of AZT and 3TC by 2.9% These are already the most profitable drugs in the history of the epidemic, AZT is estimated to have netted Glaxo-Wellcome $2.3 billion so far. Although the cost of the price increase will be $150 per year for an individual, it will equate to several million dollars of ADAP and Medicaid money. GLAXO MUST IMMEDIATELY REVERSE THE 2.9% INCREASE AND ALSO REEVALUATE THE PRICE OF ALL THEIR HIV MEDICATIONS!

Robert A. Ingram, President and CEO
or Steve Slotsky, Vice President Sales and Marketing for HIV:
Phone: (919) 248-2100
Fax: (919) 549-7459

Abbott And Hoffman Laroche:

The cost of protease inhibitors all of which wholesale at more than $4,000 a year (and go up to over $7,000 in the case of Abbott's Ritonavir) place an impossible burden upon people living with HIV/AIDS and the assistance programs that serve them, primarily Medicaid and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). ABBOTT AND HOFFMAN LAROCHE MUST IMMEDIATELY LOWER THE PRICE OF THEIR PROTEASE INHIBITORS!

Abbott: Duane L. Burnham, Chair & CEO;
Andre Pernet, VP Pharmaceutical research and Development
Phone: (847) 937-6100
Fax: (847) 937-1511

Hoffman Laroche: Patrick J. Zenner, President & CEO;
Larry Prince, Manager of Marketing and Communications
Phone: (201) 235-5000
Fax: (201) 562-2208

Merck: The price of Crixivan is reasonable in comparison with its competitors. We believe that when the new production facilities open and are in full operation -- and we hope that this will happen soon, MERCK WILL USE ECONOMIES OF SCALE TO LOWER THE PRICE OF CRIXIVAN.

Raymond V. Gilmartin, CEO,
Emilio Emini, Executive Director for Anti-Viral research
Phone (908) 423-1000
Fax (908) 735-1191

Look For Further Information On Upcoming Advocacy Efforts To Reduce Drug Prices Next Week.

For more information, contact:
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009
202-986-1300, extension 3053
202-986-1345 (fax)
202-332-9614 (tty)

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.
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