Study on generic HIV meds prompts AHF to demand Gilead cut ARV prices

In Advocacy, News by AHF

Study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows generic AIDS medications could save countless lives and billions in healthcare costs; also reports slightly reduced drug efficacy due to increased pill burden

AHF says that as Gilead’s patents on many key drugs expire, the company must lower prices of Atripla, Stribild, etc., and that federal, state and local governments should use every tool at their disposal to bring down prices

WASHINGTON (January 15, 2013)A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine today provides a snapshot of a simplified cost/benefit analysis of the potential economic savings gained by use of generic antiretroviral therapy to treat people with HIV/AIDS versus the slightly reduced efficacy of the drugs prompted advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to reiterate its call on Gilead Sciences, a key maker of branded AIDS drugs, to reduce pricing on its key AIDS drugs such as Atripla and Stribild as patents expire. The study reported that billions of dollars in healthcare cost savings could be achieved through the use of generic antiretroviral therapy; however, the study also reported slightly reduced efficacy of the generic drugs.

“The differences in efficacy of the drugs reported in this study are largely a result of pill burden, because patients must often take the generic drugs separately and/or at more than one time per day versus the all-in-one, once-a-day convenience of many branded combinations like Gilead’s Atripla,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “However, these generic medications are still clearly effective, as evidenced by the success of global AIDS programs which have provided lifesaving treatment using generic drugs to millions of people in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.”

According to a BBC News story on the study, “…trial data suggests generic drugs might be slightly less effective. And they require users to take three daily pills instead of one, increasing the risk some patients may miss doses. The doctors calculate reduced treatment efficacy could result in 4.4 months of life lost per patient lifetime. At the same time the lifetime financial savings would be $42,500 (£26,500) per patient, say the Massachusetts General Hospital investigators.

“The savings could be as much as one billion dollars per year here in the United States, while the efficacy decreased relatively slightly when using generics,” added AHF’s Weinstein. “Now that Gilead’s patents on many key drugs are expiring, the company must lower its prices of drugs like Atripla, Stribild—a four-in-one combination that actually relies on many older Gilead drugs that were otherwise approaching end of patent. In addition, we strongly believe that local, state, and federal governments should use every tool at their disposal to bring down drug prices. As tax dollars ultimately pay for most of these drugs, we extend our call on Gilead for price concessions on these AIDS drugs.”

Stribild, Gilead’s four-in-one AIDS treatment combination, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in early September and immediately priced by Gilead at $28,500 per patient, per year, Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC). That price was over 35% more than Atripla, the company’s best selling combination HIV/AIDS treatment, and made Stribild the highest priced first line combination AIDS therapy today.

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