Alabama Department of Public Health May Cut $1M From HIV/AIDS Drug Budget To Keep State Budget Balanced
The Alabama Department of Public Health may have to reduce the amount of money it spends to provide antiretroviral drugs to people with HIV/AIDS in order to balance the state's General Fund Budget, the Birmingham News reports. Lawmakers must cut $66.8 million from the fund to keep a balanced budget, meaning that the health department would have to reduce its antiretroviral drug budget from $2.5 million to $1.5 million, State Health Officer Don Williamson said. If the department makes the cut, 100 people would be dropped from the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program, according to Williamson. Those patients would then have to depend upon donations from pharmaceutical companies, according to the News. "It's a huge concern," Kathie Hiers, chief executive officer of AIDS Alabama, said, adding that social workers might be able to arrange for drug company donations. However, the lag time between the time the drugs are requested and when they are received is dangerous for HIV-positive people on treatment, because the virus can quickly develop resistance to the drugs when medication administration is interrupted. "We'll eventually get them on drugs, but you can't go without the drugs for three days," Hiers said, adding, "This is definitely a life-and-death issue situation. We're not just blowing smoke here." She said that Alabama already contributes less money to its AIDS drug program than most other states, the News reports. A drug regimen costs about $10,000 per patient per year, Hiers added (Chandler, Birmingham News, 9/22). The federal-state ADAP program provides free or low-cost medication to low-income HIV-positive individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid or other drug assistance programs. Many state ADAPs are experiencing financial trouble due to high demand for the drugs, soaring prescription costs and state budget shortfalls. Fifteen states currently have waiting lists or access restrictions on their ADAPs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.