If trend continues in 2013, taxpayer-funded programs will continue to foot the bill while people with HIV/AIDS are denied access to lifesaving treatment, says AHF
LOS ANGELES, CA (February 4, 2013) Following the release of Gilead Sciences, Inc.’s fourth-quarter and full-year FY2012 earnings report, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today challenged the company’s financial performance as one based on price hikes and “evergreening” of medications soon to go off-patent. In 2012, Gilead raised the price of its best selling AIDS drug, Atripla, to $20,800 (Wholesale Acquisition Price – WAC), a 50% price hike since it was first approved in 2005. In September 2012, the company introduced its four-in-one HIV drug, Stribild, at a yearly wholesale price (WAC) of $28,500 per patient, making it the most expensive combination HIV drug on the market. Stribild uses the active ingredient Tenovofir, which is also used in Atripla and Gilead’s other older medications. The patent for Tenofovir expires in 2017, but Gilead will keep generating high revenues from the drug for years to come by using it in other products, such as Stribild – a tactic known as “evergreening.” “Evergreening” is a term used to describe the drug company tactic of making minor adjustments to old drugs, such as combing them with other drugs into a single combination, in order to secure new patents. Often, these drugs do not provide significant clinical or safety benefits to patients, but can still cost thousands of dollars more per year than their counterparts.
“Gilead may impress the financial community with its unabashed greed and ability to demand and receive steep price increases from government programs and private insurers, but it cannot hide from the real story; thousands of people with HIV/AIDS are being denied care because of price hikes and spiraling health care costs,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “Gilead is naïve to think that it can continue on this path without it eventually coming back to bite them. Government and non-government purchasers of these drugs – and the taxpayers and customers they serve – will not tolerate endless price hikes on drugs that deny lifesaving care to patients.
Added Weinstein: “Gilead’s shareholders should take note; the company’s pricing policies have already drawn the ire of the AIDS community, and the attention of Congress, and it is not going away anytime soon.”
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.
Already this year, on January 1st, Gilead raised the prices of four key AIDS medications in the U.S. by an average of 6%, including the price of Atripla, its best-selling three-in-one combination treatment, the price of which was increased by 6.9% to a Whole Acquisition Cost (WAC) of $1,878.23 per patient, per month. The other three HIV/AIDS medications that saw price hikes are Complera, which was raised by 5.8% to a WAC of $1,936.53; Emtriva, by 5.5% to a WAC of $478.45; and Viread, by 6% to a WAC of $771.39.