States Implementing Restrictions on AIDS Drug Assistance Programs Because of Strained Budgets, Rising Drug Prices
Nearly 800 HIV/AIDS patients in the United States are on waiting lists for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs because of strained state budgets and rising drug prices, and the number likely will grow, according to doctors, state officials and AIDS advocates attending a one-day meeting on the issue in the District of Columbia on Tuesday, Reuters reports. The International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care organized the conference to discuss ways to address the rising cost of antiretroviral drugs and congressional funding of ADAPs, according to Reuters (Richwine, Reuters, 4/6). ADAPs -- which are supported with both state and federal funds -- provide HIV/AIDS-related medications to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals. As of January, 15 states had waiting lists or access restrictions for their ADAP programs, according to an "ADAP Watch" released by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/6). "We're about to fall into a major crisis" if the trend continues, IAPAC President and CEO Jose Zuniga said. AIDS advocates and physicians became more concerned about the situation in December 2003 when Abbott Laboratories raised the price of its antiretroviral drug Norvir by 400%, according to Zuniga and others, Reuters reports. "This is not about blaming industry for the entirety of problems. Certainly pricing is a concern," Zuniga said. Pharmaceutical companies say that their drug prices reflect the high cost of developing and manufacturing the drugs, according to Reuters. Zuniga said, "We need to look at a mixed bag of solutions," adding that lawmakers also "are not paying attention anymore" to the problem of AIDS drug access. "If the trends continue, a whole bunch of people are not going to be treated ... and those people are going to crash into other parts of the health care system," Bill Arnold of the ADAP Working Group said, adding, "The patients do not go away" (Reuters, 4/6).
MPR's "Marketplace Morning Report" on Tuesday reported on the IAPAC meeting on HIV/AIDS drug access and treatment issues. The segment includes comments from Zuniga (Wicai, "Marketplace Morning Report," MPR, 4/6). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.