Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Price Freeze for ADAP

The Access Project has sent the following letter and encourages wide distribution. The letter is seeking responses from organizations. Individuals may wish to call this letter to attention of any organizations to which they belong.

Dear Friends,

The AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition is asking for your support in calling for a price freeze on domestic HIV and hepatitis C drugs. Escalating drug prices have long been a contentious issue, but the situation has reached crisis levels. Over the past two years, much of the hard won increases in federal funding have been consumed by a rush of new drug price increases. These price increases represent hikes in the price of existing generations of drugs, rather than the cost of new and better drugs. We must come together to preserve drug access for HIV+ people in this country.

As we write:
  • More than 1600 people across the country are on ADAP waiting lists.
  • Medicaid programs are facing cuts across the country.
  • New Medicare Rx Plans will likely provide inadequate coverage for people living with HIV/AIDS, along with high cost sharing for people living on fixed incomes.
  • Private insurance premiums and co-pays are going through the roof.

Please take a moment and read the letter below. We are seeking Organizational sign-ons only.

To sign-on, please send the following information to JCurry819@yahoo.com The deadline for sign-ons is October 8th.

Organization:
Contact Person:
Address:
City/State/Zip:
Phone:
e-mail:

For an explanation of the price freezes, and additional background about the history of drug price increases, please go to http://www.atac-usa.org/price.html#ceo

THE DEAR CEO LETTER TO THE COMPANIES:

Dear CEO _____________________,

As people living with HIV, advocates, and members of a community whom you have considered allies in the fight against HIV and hepatitis C, we are writing to say the time has come for a drastic change in your company’s drug pricing practices in the United States.

Two years ago, the Fair Pricing Coalition wrote to companies, requesting a two-year price hold on all HIV medications. Some companies complied, while others did not. Since then, the escalating cost of drugs—and the consequent deleterious effects on the healthcare system—has become front page news. Congress is considering legislative options to control the cost of prescription drugs. Public opinion polls increasing point to big pharmaceutical companies as a primary cause of skyrocketing healthcare costs.

Instead of heeding public opinion by maintaining current prices, many companies have chosen to end price holds to the HIV/AIDS community and have raised prices once again—despite already healthy returns on product investments. Since 2003, the following companies have implemented price increases without prior warning:

BMS: 4.8% on all HIV drugs, including Reyataz (8/03 FDA approval)

GSK: 4.9% on all HIV drugs, including Lexiva (10/03 FDA approval)

Merck: 4.9% on Crixivan

Abbott: 400% on Norvir

BI: 16.5% on Viramune

Gilead: 14.6% on Viread

Roche: 5.2% on Fortovase

In addition, new drugs introduced since the price freeze two years ago continue to drive up the overall costs of HIV treatment. The inescapable conclusion is that industry revenues are maximized at the expense of the sick and the poor.

If this upward spiral continues, it will place increasing burden on public healthcare programs that provide access to treatment and care. In the last two years, Medicaid, the largest payer of HIV care, has faced unprecedented attempts to restrict funding, limit benefits and coverage at the state and federal levels.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a vital and unique safety net for uninsured HIV-positive people, has suffered severe under-funding for the last four years with no relief in sight. As a result, many state ADAPs find themselves in crisis, and are imposing such restrictions as reducing the number of covered drugs and capping monthly dollar amounts per person. Some programs are considering paying for only the lowest priced drugs. As we write, there are more than 1600 people on ADAP waiting lists across the country.

People with private insurance are experiencing soaring premiums, increases in co-pays, and the threat of lifetime caps on drug benefits. The number of uninsured persons is rising. Nevertheless, your industry continues to increase its prices—and resulting profits. These price increases are perhaps worst for those with no prescription drug coverage at all. Few can afford the cost of a complete combination therapy regimen, even if they buy drugs from pharmacies outside the U.S. or utilize other discount options.

When people with AIDS cannot access the benefit of antiretroviral therapy, they eventually become sick with opportunistic infections and related complications. Members of our community have died while on ADAP waiting lists. We will see the death toll rise as the number of people unable to access lifesaving medication grows.

Historically, the HIV/AIDS community has successfully collaborated with the pharmaceutical industry to speed the drug approval process and to secure sufficient government funding for both research and treatment. No other disease community enjoys the respect, support, and open communication that has characterized our relationships with industry. However, we now find ourselves in a situation where our hard fought successes in achieving even minimal government funding increases are quickly devoured by pharmaceutical price increases. Our collaborations with industry work against us in an increasingly more difficult economic and legislative climate. It is unconscionable that drugs discovered and tested in the United States are unaffordable to increasingly large numbers of people in our country.

As members of the communities affected by HIV and hepatitis C, we make the following simple request in the strongest possible terms:

Announce an immediate, permanent price freeze for all payers on all FDA-approved antiviral treatments for HIV and hepatitis C. This must include a real net cost freeze on all ADAP-covered drugs, for all ADAPs, beginning immediately.

We look forward to your prompt response to our request. Please direct all response and communication to:

Jen Curry, AIDS Treatment Activist Coalition

(212) 213-6376, x.33,mailto:JCurry819@yahoo.com

Signed,

AIDS Treatment Activist Coalition,

Save ADAP and Drug Development Committees

[List in formation]


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