Recently some pharmaceutical companies have imposed substantial, unexpected price increases for HIV drugs. These increases mean that more people will not get necessary treatment, since ADAP and other public program budgets have already been set, and these programs are already denying drugs through waiting lists because of lack of money.

Apparently the reason for the price increases is to keep corporate profits up despite the weaker economy and other pressures on pharmaceutical company revenue, especially the resistance to high prices by HMOs and other third-party payers. These increases come at a time of great financial pressures on ADAP, Medicaid, and other government programs, due especially to the financial problems of state governments -- as well as continuing increases in the cost of private health insurance. And these price increases come after the budgets of ADAP and other programs have already been set. With drugs costing more when less money is available, thousands of people will not get the care they need. (Patient Assistance Programs, run by pharmaceutical companies, provide free drug to some patients with no other way to pay. But these programs are designed to work poorly, as the paperwork stops many if not most who could qualify from applying. Basically those with enough social support to cause a public issue if they die for lack of the drugs can probably get them. Most others probably cannot.)

In U.S. medicine the financing system does not work, and big institutions are best able to take care of themselves -- dumping the costs of a failed system onto persons with major illnesses, who are least able to pay. We need to work for comprehensive reform -- and meanwhile be sure that communities are organized so that patients' interests will at least be represented, along with those of big pharma, big insurance, and big government.

We will keep our readers informed as we learn more about new price increases and their consequences.

ISSN # 1052-4207

Copyright 2002 by John S. James. Permission granted for noncommercial reproduction, provided that our address and phone number are included if more than short quotations are used.

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