Akron Health Care Providers, Activists Debate Ethics of Withholding AIDS Drugs from Some Patients
A group of Akron, Ohio, AIDS activists and health care providers met Thursday at the city health department to discuss the "ongoing ethical debate" over whether physicians should withhold AIDS drugs from patients who "aren't likely" to take the medication as prescribed, the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Complex drug regimens may require some patients to take up to 80 pills a day, and non-compliance with the regimen increases the risk that the patient will develop drug-resistant strains of the virus. In addition, those who are compliant with their treatment regimens still have a 30% to 40% failure rate, further "complicat[ing]" health care providers' prescribing decisions. For example, the Beacon Journal reports, physicians must consider whether they should delay treatment for illegal drug users, who may be less likely to follow their prescribed AIDS treatment schedules, until they receive drug treatment. Such considerations mean that health care providers must sometimes "weigh dangers to the public against the right of the individual to treatment," Tracy Riley, a researcher and faculty member at the University of Akron College of Nursing, said. The process is not "scientific," she said, reminding observers not to "forget" that it "involves a human life." But some AIDS activists questioned whether a "double standard" exists for AIDS patients. Rabbi David Horowitz, president of the Akron Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said his physician would not withhold blood pressure medication until he lost weight. "Why not do it the same way we do it with other treatments -- give the person the choice?" he asked (Powell, Akron Beacon Journal, 5/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.