February 2, 2011
Florida's AIDS Drug Assistance Program was on track to run out of money to treat 6,500 of its 10,000 patients by early February. Now, in an unprecedented arrangement, AIDS drug manufacturers have agreed to a one-time bail-out for these ADAP clients through the fiscal year beginning April 1, advocates said Tuesday. Florida is grateful for the help, said Tom Liberti, the state Department of Health's AIDS chief.
"They were up against the wall," said Murray Penner, deputy executive director of the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), which helped negotiate the agreement. Without the help, Florida lacked about $14 million for ADAP coverage through the current fiscal year, leaving the 6,500 clients without treatment.
Under the agreement, five drug manufacturers will donate $14 million worth of drugs to the South Carolina-based non-profit Welvista, which will coordinate their distribution to ADAP clients, Penner said. "This is a one-time, emergency, not-to-be-repeated transaction," said Penner. He noted the companies involved were initially reluctant to participate, fearing this might encourage other states to underfund their ADAPs.
Due to Florida ADAP's ongoing budget shortfall relative to demand, officials established a waiting list last summer, cut the range of drugs covered, and dropped 350 patients under lower income eligibility criteria. As of Jan. 20, 2,879 HIV/AIDS patients seeking enrollment into ADAP had been placed on the waiting list.
Federal funding of Florida's ADAP was flat last year, at about $83 million. Coping with a tighter budget, state legislators cut Florida's share in the program by $1 million, to $9.5 million. The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott need to address the ADAP budget shortfall and waiting list, Penner said, adding, "Florida dodged the bullet, short-term. I would not say that the answers are there long-term."