AIDS Healthcare Foundation Says Drug Used To Treat AIDS Wasting Not Essential for Treatment
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the largest nongovernmental provider of health care services for people with HIV/AIDS in the United States, last month said that the drug Serostim, which is used to treat AIDS-related wasting, is not essential for treatment and that patients use the drug primarily to improve their appearances rather than their health, the New York Daily News reports. The drug, which is manufactured by Serono Laboratories, costs approximately $6,200 per month and is included in Medicaid drug formularies. Some patients sell their Serostim on the black market for a "fraction" of the drug's Medicaid price to bodybuilders who use the drug to build muscle mass. AHF President Michael Weinstein said that the drug "doesn't provide any clinical benefit," adding, "At a time when Medicaid is cutting back, (Serostim) shouldn't be in the formula at all." Serono is being investigated for sales and marketing improprieties by several states, including Maryland, Florida, California and New York, and has received a subpoena from the U.S. attorney's office in Boston, according to the Daily News (New York Daily News, 9/18). Federal and state officials involved in the investigation are looking for evidence of possible improper sales of the drug, improper billing of state Medicaid programs and improper financial incentives to get doctors and pharmacists to prescribe the drug, according to law enforcement officials close to the case (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/9/02). Sales of Serostim have fallen from $125 million in 2001 to $95 million in 2002 after a crackdown on illegal sales of the drug (New York Daily News, 9/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.