Coalition of AIDS Advocacy Groups Launch Campaign To Pressure Roche To Lower Price of Fuzeon
An international coalition of AIDS advocacy groups on Monday launched a campaign urging pharmaceutical company Roche to lower the price of its new antiretroviral drug Fuzeon, according to an AIDS Healthcare Foundation release (AHF release, 4/14). The FDA on March 13 approved the drug, which is designed for HIV/AIDS patients who have failed to respond to other medications and is the first drug in seven years that uses a new method to fight HIV. Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical company producing and marketing the drug, and Trimeris, the biotech company that developed the drug, last month announced that the price of Fuzeon in the United States would be just under $20,000 per patient per year. The price is double that of the most expensive HIV treatments on the market, and because the drug must be taken in combination with other medicines, the total cost of treatment could reach between $30,000 and $40,000 per patient per year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/26). In a letter to Roche Chairman and CEO Franz Humer, the groups wrote that the high price of Fuzeon puts the drug out of reach for most HIV/AIDS patients and "threatens to bankrupt already financially stressed Medicaid and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs." The advocates are calling on Roche to lower the price of the drug due to the "substantial" amount of U.S. taxpayer funds used in its research and development, including $3.5 million from as many as 17 grants from NIH (AHF release, 4/14). The groups "question why American taxpayers will be charged at this level for a medication developed with taxpayer funding," the letter says. Since the drug "will only be able to benefit [people] if they are able to access it," the groups "urge [Roche] to reduce the price of this amazing drug so that" people "will be able to benefit from it," the letter concludes (Letter text, 4/14). Groups from the United States, Italy and other nations signed the letter, including the African Services Committee, the AIDS Medicare Project, the European AIDS Treatment Group, the Global AIDS Alliance and the United African Federation (AHF release, 4/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.