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AIDS Action Readies For Nationwide Call-In To Pharmaceuticals, Demands Equity In Pricing For Life-Saving Aids Drugs

Coalition of National AIDS Advocacy Organizations
Set for Halloween Effort

October 30, 1996

Contact: Kevin A. Mercuri,
(202) 986-1300, Ext. 3065
Washington, D.C. - AIDS Action and its 1,400 member nationwide network spent today readying for the latest stage in the war to ensure access to state-of-the-art care for people living with HIV and AIDS. Alarmed at the expanding difficulty in accessing promising new therapies - brought about to a substantial degree by the high price of life-extending AIDS drugs - AIDS Action and its network will join other AIDS advocacy organizations in a national call-in and fax-in to major pharmaceutical companies tomorrow to demand that they acknowledge the growing impact of their drug pricing policies on overburdened care systems.

"The AIDS advocacy community has had some important successes in improving access to care by preventing the block granting of Medicaid and increasing funding for the Ryan White CARE act and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program" said Gary Rose, treatment and research representative for AIDS Action. "These achievements are dwarfed, however, by the stark reality that an ever-growing number of people living with HIV cannot afford the care they need to stay alive."

While the pharmaceutical industry has been a key player in the expansion of state AIDS drug formularies and increased funding for programs that purchase drugs, they have ignored consistent demands made by the AIDS advocacy and health care communities to lower the costs of their drugs. In at least one case, Glaxo-Wellcome raised the prices of AZT and 3TC - integral elements in triple combination therapy shortly after increases in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) were announced for Fiscal Year 1997.

"We have worked well with the companies in improving access through increased funding of public programs," added Rose, "but those programs will never be able to cope with the massive increases in cost of care brought on by the astronomical prices for the protease inhibitors and for many drugs to treat opportunistic infections. It's time for these companies to do their part in solving this problem."

Working in coalition with 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 groups, the national call-in/fax-in will begin Halloween morning and continue into the night. Pharmaceutical companies targeted in this first stage are:

Glaxo Wellcome: which recently raised the price of AZT and 3TC by 2.9 per cent. Already the most profitable drugs in the history of the epidemic, AZT alone is estimated to have netted Glaxo Wellcome over $2.3 billion.

Abbott: whose $7,000 annual bill for Ritonavir will place an impossible burden on persons with HIV and AIDS and the programs that serve them, especially Medicaid and ADAP.

Hoffman LaRoche: whose $5,700 annual charge for Invirase places similarly impossible burdens on PWAs and their service providers.

Merck: whose $4,500 annual price for Crixivan, while lower in comparison to its competitors, nonetheless contributes to the growing problem of access.

"This action will set the stage for future national efforts that call on all those concerned to do their part in increasing access to care," said Rose. "It has become increasingly urgent that every person living with HIV and AIDS have real access to affordable, life-extending and enhancing drug therapies. To adopt policies that may result in the denial of life-enhancing and extending care to any person living with HIV or AIDS is a moral outrage."

Founded in 1984, AIDS Action is the only national organization devoted solely to advocating on federal AIDS policy and legislation. AIDS Action represents more than 1,400 community-based AIDS service organizations throughout the United States.

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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