Merck’s Africa Offer Draws Protest From Some HIV-Positive Americans
announcement last week that it would drop by 50% the prices of its anti-HIV drugs Crixivan and Stocrin in Africa has led some activists to question why the drug giant would not also "drastically" reduce AIDS drug prices for patients in the United States, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. "It's not just the Africans who are screwed, it's all of us that don't have major medical insurance. I think they are gouging people who are sick and dying for everything they can," an unnamed HIV-positive New Yorker said.
ACT UP/Philadelphia spokesperson Julie Davids explained that like Africans, many Americans struggle to pay for expensive antiretroviral therapy, especially those who are not rich but yet not poor enough to qualify for government assistance. But Merck called the situations between HIV-positive Americans and Africans "different," saying that the American epidemic "is not comparable to the catastrophe in Africa, where an estimated 25 million people are infected with the virus." According to Merck spokesperson Gwen Fisher, "We are talking about a humanitarian effort for millions of people affected by this dreadful disease. We don't have the same situation in the United States. We have a lot of safety nets to make sure people have access to medicines." Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, added that drug firms cannot "slash" prices for therapies in the United States because "there would be no money left over for research and development," noting that drug companies expect to spend $32 billion in R&D this year, a 20% increase from 2000 (Schwab, Newark
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