Denver Post Examines High Cost, Limited Accessibility of Roche’s Antiretroviral Drug Fuzeon
The Denver Post on Friday examined how the high cost of Roche's antiretroviral Fuzeon has limited HIV/AIDS patients' access to the drug (Austin, Denver Post, 8/22). The FDA in March approved Fuzeon, which is designed for HIV/AIDS patients who have failed to respond to other medications. The drug costs about $20,000 per patient per year, double the price of the most expensive HIV treatments currently on the market (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/6). Fuzeon is in a new class of drugs called fusion inhibitors, which prevent HIV from entering cells by preventing the virus from attaching to cell membranes. Roche and pharmaceutical company Trimeris had projected that they would be able to supply the drug worldwide to between 12,000 and 15,000 patients in 2003 and to approximately 32,000 by the end of 2004. But in July, the company said that it expects to be able to produce the drug for 18,000 patients by the end of the year and to make additional manufacturing improvements by removing "production bottlenecks" at its Colorado plant (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/15). Twenty-two state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs -- state-managed, federally funded programs that provide HIV medications to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals -- have added or plan to add Fuzeon to their formularies, and Roche currently is in negotiations to have the drug added to other programs. However, many programs are offering the drug only in limited quantities due to its high price (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/6). Dr. Joshua Blum, who treats patients at Denver Health's HIV early-intervention services clinic, said that the current economy has left ADAPs across the country "drained" and patients in "more fragile financial condition," according to the Post. According to Blum, Fuzeon "couldn't have hit the market at a worse time," but he added, "For those that can afford it, this is one more weapon in the arsenal" (Denver Post, 8/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.