Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced this week it will back a ballot initiative in San Francisco that directs city officials to “…employ all opportunities that the municipal government possesses to bring down the price of prescription drugs.”
The proposed measure comes on heels of the FDA approval this week of the Bay Area’s Gilead Sciences’ four-in-one AIDS treatment combination Stribild—which Gilead immediately priced at $28,500 per patient per year, 37 percent more than the company’s best-selling three-in-one AIDS treatment, Atripla—and also more than most U.S. AIDS patients earn in any given year.
“This is as blatant an example of predatory pricing as there is, and Gilead Sciences and CEO John Martin should be ashamed,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
“$28,500 per patient per year for this drug illustrates how unsustainable drug pricing has become—in fact, $28,500 is more than most U.S. AIDS patients earn in a year. This price will severely limit access to lifesaving AIDS medications by gouging government aid programs like the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.
“We previously urged Gilead to price the new combination no higher than that of Atripla. In response to Gilead’s pricing action, we have decided to move forward with a ballot measure in the City of San Francisco that would require city officials to work to reign in such runaway drug costs.”
Gilead Sciences responded to AHF concerns in an email sent to the Post by Erin Rau of the company’s public affairs department.
“As the leading provider of HIV therapy, Gilead takes its responsibility to patients seriously. We are committed to developing medications that address the needs of the medical community and to ensuring patients can access those therapies,” said Rau.
“Recognizing the financial difficulties many individuals face in today’s challenging economy, Gilead has established one of the most comprehensive packages of patient assistance solutions for people living with HIV,” Rau said.
To be placed on the ballot, initiative supporters must collect approximately 10,000 valid signatures of registered San Francisco voters. Collection of signatures will begin later in the fall, since it already is too late to qualify for the November 2012 ballot.
The measure could appear on the November 5, 2013 San Francisco election ballot.
According to the language of the proposed ballot measure, “San Francisco (will) 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.”
Two weeks ago, a group of 20 California legislators led by California Assemblymember Betsy Butler (D, 53rd Assembly District) cosigned a letter 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.”
For information visit www.aidshealth.org.
For more information on programs run by Gilead Sciences, visit www.gilead.com/hiv_access_us