AHF Presses BMS to Slash Price of Key AIDS Drug Reyataz

Since its Approval in 2003, BMS Has Hiked Price of Reyataz 25% to $13K Per Patient Yearly; Meanwhile, Patient Enrollment in California's Lifesaving AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Grew 50% Since 2000 as Drug Spending Jumped 165% During the Same Period. Letter to BMS Asks Drug Giant to Lower Price for ADAPS to Similar Price of Other First Line ARVs such as Viread and Sustiva.

By AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Los Angeles, California

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is pressing New York-based drug firm Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) to lower the price of its key AIDS drug, Reyataz—currently priced at over $13,000 per year—for lifesaving, but financially hard-hit AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) nationwide. AHF officials note Reyataz must be taken with at least two other HIV/AIDS drugs as part of an effective antiretroviral treatment regimen.

In a letter sent late last week to BMS, AHF President Michael Weinstein asked that,

…Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) lower the price of Reyataz for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP) to equal the prices of other widely prescribed first-line antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, such as Viread and Sustiva. We recognize that BMS provides financial assistance to people who cannot afford Reyataz through a co-payment program and the Access Virology Patient Assistance Program. However, these efforts are completely undone by the exorbitant price that BMS charges for this drug. This price puts an unbearable strain on ADAP’s ability to provide treatment to additional people who need it.

As ADAPs around the country try to provide AIDS drugs to an increasing number of low-income people in need, the steep price of such lifesaving drugs is becoming a more crucial issue. The Average Wholesale Price (AWP) for Reyataz (atazanavir) stands at $13,046 per-year. By contrast, other commonly prescribed first-line AIDS drugs are priced $3,000 to $5,400 less. Moreover, BMS has increased the price of Reyataz year over year; since it was first approved in 2003, the price of Reyataz has increased by over 25%.

Across the country, states have been forced to make cuts to ADAP services and enrollment because of high cost AIDS drugs like Reyataz. States can no longer afford to provide treatment to many of their current ADAP clients, and as costs increase more people will be put at risk of losing access to services. Ultimately, this means that the more people who go on high-priced Reyataz, the fewer who can receive services.

AHF has seen firsthand the impact of high priced AIDS drug like Reyataz. In California, for example, since 2000 the number of new ADAP clients has only increased by 50%, but AIDS drug spending has increased by 165%. The price of Reyataz is a major contributing factor to this increase.

Weinstein’s letter to BMS’ CEO concluded,

AHF recognizes that Reyataz is not the only expensive AIDS drug. BMS is one of many companies that we are engaging about their drug pricing. However, the existence of other expensive AIDS drugs does not justify BMS’s decision to price Reyataz beyond affordability. Price reductions from BMS and all AIDS drug manufacturers are needed to ensure ADAP can continue to provide lifesaving treatment to the people who need it.

“We challenge both BMS and its incoming CEO Lamberto Andreotti, who will assume his position in early May, as well as the pharmaceutical industry as a whole to set pricing and access policies for these potentially lifesaving AIDS drugs in a manner that illustrates their concern for patient quality of life, rather than contributing to the public’s growing crisis of confidence in the entire industry,” added AHF’s Weinstein in a statement announcing the letter to BMS.

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