AHF launches S.F. ballot measure to ‘Stop Runaway Drug Pricing’

In Advocacy by AHF


Ballot Measure Press Conference Thursday, Nov. 15th 11:00am PT, S.F. City Hall steps

Ballot measure came about after Bay Area’s own Gilead Sciences priced its new four-in-one AIDS treatment, Stribild, at $28,500 per patient, per year—more than most U.S. AIDS patients earn in a year. AHF-backed ballot measure seeks to rein in the city’s prescription drug purchasing costs; advocates to also host drug-pricing forums in S.F. and protests at Gilead’s Foster City headquarters Wed. & Thurs.

SAN FRANCISCO (November 13, 2012)—AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) will host a PRESS CONFERENCE, Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 11:00am Pacific Time (PT) on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall (1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, SF, CA 94102) to announce its filing of a ballot measure in San Francisco to allow voters to weigh in on directing San Francisco government officials to, “…employ all opportunities that the municipal government possesses to bring down the price of prescription drugs.” The catalyst for the proposed San Francisco ballot measure was AIDS advocates’ frustration over the news that within days of the Bay Area’s own Gilead Sciences September FDA approval of its new four-in-one AIDS treatment combination Stribild, the drug company immediately priced Stribild at $28,500 per patient, per year, Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC)—a whopping 37% more than the price of Gilead’s best-selling three-in-one AIDS treatment, Atripla—more than most U.S. AIDS patients earn in any given year.

“The canary in the coal mine of runaway drug pricing is Gilead,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Gilead’s excessive pricing of it AIDS drugs generates record profits for the company and $54 million in annual pay for its CEO, John Martin, making him the tenth highest paid executive in the nation. Unfortunately, this comes 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, and a City like San Francisco, can and should use its clout to stand up to drug companies like Gilead. That is why we are taking this issue directly to the people of San Francisco through our ballot measure.”

“$28,500 per patient, per year for Gilead’s new four-in-one AIDS drug Stribild—a drug which in many ways is another ‘me too’ drug offering only marginally better efficacy for a Cadillac cost—illustrates just how unsustainable drug pricing has become,” said Dr. Lisha Wilson, Medical Director, San Francisco Healthcare Centers, AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “$28,500 is more than most of my patients—and, in fact, most AIDS patients in the US—earn in any given year. Runaway drug pricing limits access to lifesaving AIDS medications by gouging hard-hit government aid programs as well as private insurers, and is one of the reasons why I am a proponent of the measure we are unveiling here today.”

“In response to what we and many others view as Gilead’s ‘predatory pricing’ of its drugs, we are proudly moving forward today with this ballot measure in San Francisco that will require government officials to work to really rein in such runaway drug costs,” added Jesse Brooks, a longtime Bay Area community activist and proponent of the measure.


AHF’s City of San Francisco ballot initiative requires the collection of approximately 10,000 valid signatures (9,703 exactly) of registered San Francisco voters. Collection of voter signatures will begin in earnest this week throughout San Francisco and continue through the early winter (signatures are due mid-May 2013) with the expectation that the measure will easily qualify and then appear on the November 5, 2013 San Francisco election ballot. Proponents of the ballot measure include Dr. Lisha Wilson, Medical Director, San Francisco Healthcare Centers, AIDS Healthcare Foundation; Jesse Brooks, a community activist; and Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Following is the TITLE & SUMMARY prepared by the City Attorney of San Francisco for the measure that was published with the NOTICE OF INTENT TO CIRCULATE PETITION, which ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, Monday, November 12, 2012:

Prescription Drug Purchasing
San Francisco purchases prescription drugs for medical programs run by the City. San Francisco runs inpatient treatment programs at San Francisco General Hospital, Laguna Honda Hospital, and the San Francisco jail. It also runs outpatient treatment programs at the City’s hospitals and clinics. For example, San Francisco provides prescription drugs to many participants in the Healthy San Francisco program, which offers health care to uninsured San Francisco residents who meet income requirements.

San Francisco spends over $23 million per year on prescription drugs. This includes approximately $3.5 million dollars annually on antiretroviral medications to treat inpatients with HIV and related conditions.

City law authorizes San Francisco’s Public Health Department to use outside companies to negotiate prices and purchase prescription drugs. For inpatient medications, including medications for inmates, the City uses an outside company that negotiates drug prices with drug manufacturers. For outpatient medications, the City participates in a federal program that offers a significant discount on prescription drugs. To ensure that it remains eligible for this program, the City uses a federally selected company to negotiate prices and purchase outpatient prescription drugs.

The proposed measure would make it City policy to employ all available opportunities to reduce the price of prescription drugs. It would establish as City policy that San Francisco directly negotiate with drug manufacturers and seek to pay less for essential medications that the City purchases. It would also establish as City policy that San Francisco ask its representatives in state and federal government to sponsor legislation to reduce by one third current drug prices paid by all levels of government.

If the proposed measure were adopted, the Board of Supervisors would be required to
study the policy and determine what action, if any, would be appropriate to implement
the policy. [Department of Elections file no. 12-03]

Following is the initial language of the STATEMENT OF REASONS for AHF’s proposed ‘Stop Runaway Drug Pricing’ San Francisco ballot measure:

“The people of San Francisco wishing to ensure maximum access to life-saving medications to all of the citizens of the city, state and nation resolve to employ all opportunities that the municipal government possesses to bring down the price of prescription drugs. Our city has a very large population of people who are HIV infected and drug prices have a significant impact on our finances.

This initiative requires that San Francisco enter into direct negotiation with drug manufacturers to pay less for essential medications that it purchases. In addition, the San Francisco delegations to the California Legislature and the US Congress are asked to carry legislation to reduce current drug prices paid by all levels of government by at least one third.

The largest HIV drug maker Gilead Sciences, which is located in the Bay Area has made record profits and its CEO earns $53 million, while thousands of HIV patients have languished on waiting lists for drugs across the United States and the State of California and its cities struggle to pay their bills. As the nation embarks on healthcare reform, which will bring tens of millions of new paying customers to the pharmaceutical industry, this industry must act in a responsible fashion – San Francisco can lead the way.”

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