As Gilead prepares to price the ‘Quad,’ 20 California legislators say AIDS drug pricing “unsustainable”

In Advocacy, News by AHF


Twenty Members of the state legislature cosign a letter to Dr. Ron Chapman, Director of California’s Department of Public Health, encouraging the State of California to, “ … employ all the levers of influence and authority that the government possesses, independently and in partnership with other states, to reduce the price of prescription drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS…”

SACRAMENTO (August 18, 2012)—AIDS Healthcare Foundation today lauded California Assemblymember Betsy Butler (D, 53rd Assembly District) for a letter she wrote—and which nineteen fellow California state legislators cosigned—to Dr. Ron Chapman, Director of California’s Department of Public Health in which the legislators expressed concern about the rising costs of drugs to treat people with HIV/AIDS served by California’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and encouraged Chapman’s department to, “…employ all the levers of influence and authority that the government possesses, independently and in partnership with other states, to reduce the price of prescription drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS and its co-morbidities.”

Butler’s cosigners include: Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D, 13th District); Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D, 8th District); Assemblymember Das Williams (D, 35th District); Senator Ted Lieu (D, Torrance); Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D, 40th District); Assemblymember Toni Atkins (D, 76th District); Assemblymember Jim Beall (D, 24th District); Assemblymember Marty Block (D, 78th District); Senator Elaine Alquist (D, Santa Clara); Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal (D, 54th District); Senator Kevin de Leon (D, Los Angeles); Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D, 6th District); Assemblymember Gil Cedillo (D, 45th District); Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D, 41st District); Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D, 15th District); Assemblymember Wes Chesbro (D, 1st District); Assemblymember Wilmer Amina Carter (D, 62nd District); Senator Curren Price (D, Los Angeles) and  Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (D, 44th District).

In the legislators’ letter to Dr. Chapman, dated and sent August 16, 2012, they noted:

 “The impact of the Great Recession on California and other states has generated actual and threatened reductions to ADAP budgets in terms of expanded share of cost obligations and waiting lists. While the Legislature has rejected these proposals because they impede access to ADAP and force beneficiaries to, choose between food and treatment, the intersection of the state and federal fiscal situation and the faster trajectory of drug prices relative to the growth in demand makes current drug pricing practices unsustainable.”

They also pointed out:

“Since 2000-2001, the number of patients served by ADAP has increased 76% while spending on ARVs [antiretrovirals] has increased 194%. The cost of ARVs per patient has increased from $5,100 per year to $8,500 per year over the past decade.”

“We thank Assemblymember Butler and the nineteen colleagues in the legislature who cosigned this letter urging Dr. Chapman, as head of California’s Department of Public Health, to use the power of the state’s enormous size and pocketbook to try to leverage reduced prices for antiretroviral drugs used in California’s MediCal and ADAP programs for low-income Californians,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

In the legislators’ letter to Dr. Chapman, they further noted that:

“Added to the current pressures, are a number of new very expensive drugs in the pipeline for FDA approval as early as this month, The anticipated cost of each of these new drugs creates a tension between the need to make all HIV/AIDS drugs available to our citizens and the need to ensure that ADAP remains financially viable as the payor of last resort for Californians who need these drugs to stay alive and productive.”

“Because of its innovation in responding to the HIVIAIDS epidemic and its substantial market share, the State of California has the stature to be a leader in fostering drug prices that are fiscally responsible, fair to the drug companies and sustain access for persons, with HIVIAIDS. DPH has statutory and other tools already available to it that can be used to improve California’s negotiating position.”

AHF’s Weinstein added in his statement: “To save lives, curb the spread of HIV, and lower long-term care expenses, it is imperative to get more patients tested and into antiretroviral treatment. This will be nearly impossible if we continue to introduce new HIV drugs—like California-based Gilead Science’s new treatment, the ‘Quad’—at prices higher than the current, all too similar drugs they replace. Gilead’s excessive pricing of it AIDS drugs has already generated record profits for  the company, and $53 million in annual pay for its CEO, John Martin, making him the tenth highest paid executive in the nation. Sadly, this has come at the expense of state ADAP and Medicaid programs, the largest purchasers of Gilead’s products, and the people living with HIV/AIDS that rely on these programs but cannot access them due to funding constraints. A state as vast and powerful as California can and should use its clout to stand up to runaway pricing drug companies like Gilead feel they can get away with.”

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